|Senator Bayh with Purdue University athletes ca. 1972
Opening the Gates of Higher Education
Senator Bayh could justly be hailed
as a hero on every American college and university campus. He authored and introduced Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments
of 1972, which for the first time prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the classroom and on the athletic field,
protecting both students and faculty.
Prior to Senator Bayh’s legislation, women students were denied equal opportunities
under the law in academics; women applicants were routinely denied equal access to medical, law, and other graduate schools;
and women athletes were denied equal participation in sports. Similarly, female faculty members were denied equal compensation
and promotion. Today’s rise of women in all academic disciplines and in sports at every level is, in many ways, a direct
outgrowth of the landmark Title IX legislation.
The statistics are astonishing. Women’s participation in college sports has
increased more than fivefold since the law’s passage. Before Title IX, women’s sports received less than 2 percent
of college athletic budgets; they now receive 37 percent. Women’s representation among law school students has risen
from 7 percent to 43 percent; among medical school students, from 9 percent to 41 percent. On college and university faculties,
the proportion of women professors has risen from 18 percent to almost 40 percent. Women now account for more than half of
the nation’s undergraduate and graduate students overall.
The effects of Title IX have reached far beyond campus as well. A 2006 study sponsored
by the National Bureau of Economic Research credited the legislation with a significant increase in physical activity and
improvement in weight and body mass among adolescent girls and young women since the 1970s, lowering their risk of many medical
problems. No other American public health program can claim similar success, the study’s authors found.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied
the benefits of,
or be subjected
to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
these simple words that Senator Bayh drafted, barriers and inequalities that seemed almost insuperable a few decades ago seem
inconceivable to the young women of today.