“Being able to call myself a female student-athlete is a right that women before me fought extremely hard for,” said Kaitlyn Pasillas, a History major in Wilkinson College and member of the women’s water polo team, “it is something that makes me extremely proud as a person, as a woman, and as a student at Chapman University.”

Thanks to Title IX, Pasillas has the right to compete as a student-athlete at Chapman. Title IX is a federal anti-discrimination law passed on June 23, 1972 as part of the Education Amendments to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law banned sex discrimination in federally funded education programs but is more widely known for its impacts on expanding opportunities for women and girls in sports.

Kaitlyn Pasillas ’24, History major.

Pasillas studied Title IX in Dr. Charissa Threat’s U.S. Women’s History class last fall. Pasillas says she and her classmates (most of whom were women) discussed how it opened the door for all of them sitting there in the classroom. “I remember a specific moment where we looked around the classroom and realized that without Title IX, none of us would be there, let alone able to play a sport. Since Title IX recognizes the importance of athletics to an educational institution, it takes the legal effort to protect students’ rights to academic and athletic participation. Reading about the difficulties that came with passing Title IX made me more thankful that I could go to an amazing university and continue playing my sport.”

According to How Title IX Transformed Women’s Sports “in 1972, there were just over 300,000 women and girls playing college and high school sports in the United States. Female athletes received two percent of college athletic budgets, while athletic scholarships for women were virtually nonexistent.”

“Water polo was a really important factor in my choosing Chapman; having the ability to continue playing my sport has been something I am so grateful for. It’s also something I know wasn’t just given to me. Women had to fight for the right to simply play a sport in college. My sport is as much a part of me as my studies are. I know it is my right as a student and citizen to have access to every facet of collegiate life, especially collegiate sports,” said Pasillas.

Today, as the 50th anniversary of Title IX approaches, the number of girls participating in high school and competing in intercollegiate sports is well over 3.5 million.

Billie Jean King, seen here in 1977, learned to play tennis on the public courts near her Long Beach, Calif., home.
(Kathy Willens/AP/Press Association Images)

Women like professional tennis player Billie Jean King fought for equality in sports through her influence and playing style throughout her career during the 60 and 70s. King pushed relentlessly for the rights of women players in all sports. She was one of the founders and the first president, in 1974, of the Women’s Tennis Association forming a separate women’s tour and establishing financial backing for the tour.

“While sports are important, Title IX is about more than sports. Title IX is also relevant to considering students’ vulnerabilities to sexual violence and sexual harassment and how schools are to handle its occurrence on university campuses,” said Professor CK Magliola, Program Director of the  Women’s & Gender Studies Interdisciplinary minor in Wilkinson College. “It is clear (in my eyes, anyway) that sexual violence and harassment interferes with the education of those subjected to it and that schools, under federal civil rights law of Title IX, have a certain obligation to respond to dangers its students face and to (reasonably) provide a safe and equal, non-discriminatory environment for its members.”

For educational institutions receiving federal funds, this means not looking the other way, investigating claims, supporting survivors, and taking sexual assault seriously, as both a crime and a violation of student codes of conduct.

“The exact relationship between Title IX and how educational institutions are to handle incidents of campus sexual assault is a complex and controversial matter—and is still very much unsettled,” said Professor Magliola.

As Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, who helped guide the bill through Congress, noted Title IX was “an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs.”