Wyden pushes for educational equality

At the request of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), 200 science, math and engineering students gathered to counter the convention of officials who were evaluating the impact the Title IX law has had on athletics, claiming there was too much emphasis being put on equality in sports and too little on academics.

Wyden convinced professors and department chairs to send a letter to Education Secretary Roderick Paige with the request that the Department of Education ensure that universities and colleges are promoting science, math and engineering programs to women as equally as they are to men. There is concern that Title IX is being applied only to athletics and not fulfilling the second part of its mission, which focuses on education.

Title IX, put into effect in 1972, provides a framework for equal access to educational programs to be utilized by women who may otherwise be excluded from such programs.

Although the bill does not state that athletics is its primary focus, there has been some feeling that too much emphasis has been put on sports. The very fact that a commission gathered in Washington to evaluate its success for athletics, without addressing education, was enough to support some of those concerns.

Dr. Marvin Kaiser, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State, agrees with the notion that classroom studies have not been the main focus of Title IX.

“From what I have seen in my career, there has not been as much involvement with academics as there has in sports, in regards to Title IX situations,” Kaiser said, also stating that he has never personally dealt with Title IX incidents.

Kaiser also feels that Portland State needs more female professors, because there are many very talented women who could not only be great teachers but who could also be role models to women who are considering pursuing degrees in science and math.

“Women have not traditionally seen female role models in positions in science and mathematics, and it would be great to increase that at our school,” he said. “I feel it is the responsibility of higher education to tackle these issues at the K-12 levels in order to build confidence in girls that they can succeed in these areas.”

Since the implementation of Title IX, women’s participation in athletics has increased exponentially, from one in 17 girls playing team sports prior to the bill, to one in 2.5 today. However, women currently account for only 20 percent of science graduates and 6 percent of engineering faculty, which could be raised to levels of 40 to 50 percent with the use of Title IX, some experts say.

“Secretary Paige should work to ensure that the mandate of Title IX is met in all academic disciplines, especially math and sciences,” Wyden said in his address. “At a time when this nation is facing a shortage of computer scientists, aerospace engineers and physicists, bringing more women into these fields is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smartest way to address a crisis that threatens our nation’s economic vitality.”

Kaiser feels that the recent NASA incident, although terribly sad and devastating to the world, was beneficial in the very least that it brought exposure to women’s involvement in aeronautical science. He hopes that women will be able to look to those two female astronauts, who died aboard the Columbia, as sources of inspiration.

There are roughly 16,000 school districts, 3,200 colleges and universities and 5,000 for-profit private schools that currently receive federal financial funding, making the breadth of Title IX application a broad one.

Some of the previous cases that have been heard include the provision of less than a fair share of funds for female athletic scholarships, inequitable pay for women teachers holding similar positions to male counterparts and discrimination against pregnant females seeking education.

In 1994, women received 38 percent of medical degrees, compared to only nine percent in 1972, and 43 percent of law degrees in 1994 in comparison to only seven percent in 1972.

Complaints go to regional offices, which are directed by the Department of Education. The headquarters for the Pacific Northwest region is located in Seattle and can be reached at 1-800-421-3481. Complaints are dismissed if not reported within 180 days of their occurrence.

A look at affirmative action law:

Executive order 11246 (1965)Requires that employers meeting minimum income levels take “affirmative action” to ensure that all qualified applicants and employees receive equal employment opportunity.

Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964Prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Title IX of Education Amendments Act of1972Ensures that no person is subjected to discrimination under educational programs or activities, often applied to sports programs.