A generation of change
Title IX marks 50 years of progress in female sports
By Rich Palzewic
With the 50th anniversary of Title IX occurring this summer, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) campus hosted a panel of speakers Sept. 15 for “Title IX – Then & Now.”
Abbey Sutherland, head coach for UWGB women’s volleyball, was the moderator for the event.
Other panelists included Tracy Arndt, community member, national champion women’s swimmer at UW-Madison just before the passage of Title IX; Tiffany Paalman, current UWGB volleyball team captain; Christopher Paquet, UWGB Title IX Coordinator, assistant vice chancellor policy and compliance; and Jeanne Stangel, President/CEO of Curative Connections, UWGB basketball alumna.
Title IX — which was signed into law June 8, 1972 — is the most commonly used name for the federal civil rights law in the United States enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972.
It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program receiving funding from the federal government.
The purpose of Title IX was to update Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned several forms of employment discrimination but didn’t address or mention discrimination in education.
“It was a great evening with lots of good speakers and dialogue,” Sutherland, who has been the volleyball coach since 2018, said of the presentation. “Christopher is an expert on Title IX — virtually a lawyer — and made me feel better because he talked about the details of Title IX. The three ladies on the panel were great because they crossed three generations.”
The theme of the presentation was “where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going.”
“It fires me up to think the women I coach wouldn’t have had this opportunity in the 1960s and early ’70s, so we’re grateful for how far we’ve come,” Sutherland said. “Tracy Arndt — who swam with the men’s team at UW-Madison — has a daughter who got a scholarship to swim at the University of Michigan. To see that much change in a generation is great. It’s people like Tracy who paved the way for the current generation.”
Sutherland said women athletes today have many more opportunities than they used to.
“(Women athletes today) have mental performance consultants and more resources — a locker room, gear,” she said. “They have so many more things that weren’t an option back then. I’m glad the current generation doesn’t have to worry about that as much. We had a lot of student-athletes at the event, and it was good for them to see how far we’ve come.”
Looking toward the future
Sutherland said it’s exciting to think about the future of women’s sports.
“In terms of volleyball, the University of Wisconsin (on Sept. 16) set an NCAA regular-season attendance record in its match versus Florida — almost 17,000 fans,” she said. “The ESPN networks are starting to regularly schedule volleyball matches because it’s so popular.”
Sutherland said her first day on the job in 2018 was memorable — but for another reason.
“The Green Bay area does a great job promoting women’s sports,” she said. “That day, there were hundreds of people at the Green Bay Distillery watching the (NCAA) Women’s Basketball Selection Show — that was exhilarating for me.”
Sutherland said she feels sports, and life in general, needs more women leaders but admits there are barriers to achieving that.
“It’s harder keeping women in coaching,” she said. “There’s more pressure — raising a family and gender bias involved in that. There’s so much more pressure in sports today.”
How has Title IX impacted UWGB?
Paquet, who said UWGB isn’t immune to Title IX issues/complaints, gave specific examples of how it has affected the school.
“First off, I couldn’t be happier with how the event went,” he said. “The ladies on the panel fed off each other — it was perfect.”
Paquet said he wanted to bring several things to the discussion.
“Title IX is about accessibility,” he said. “You can’t deprive someone based on gender. Also, how is Title IX applied to sexual misconduct and the rights of an individual who has been a victim of sexual misconduct? As we look to the future, the transgender topic is also going to be an item of interest in the Title IX process.”
Paquet said his position at UWGB is multi-faceted.
“One of the things I do is respond to complaints about accessibility based on gender – and that goes both ways,” he said. “The number of complaints stating, ‘I was deprived of this because I am female’ is probably equal to the number of complaints saying, ‘I was deprived of this because I am male.’”
Paquet said UWGB had a recent example involving a women’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.
“The complaint said by titling it how it was, it was a deprivation to males involved with that,” he said. “We explained it was open to anyone, and it was resolved. I also have a team that works on sexual misconduct issues committed by an employee, another student, etc. — that becomes a matter of Title IX, and we have to apply the higher standard of due process to that.”
Paquet said K-12 schools and colleges have similar standards when it comes to Title IX, but there are slight differences.
“In K-12, it’s basically about equal opportunity,” he said. “Even before this year, girls could always participate in wrestling. In that case, a school isn’t compelled to have a men’s and a women’s wrestling team. The WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) recently created a girls’ wrestling state tournament, so that’s great for the future.”
At the collegiate level, Paquet said – on a basic level — it’s more about resource allocation.
“It’s somewhat based on the proportion of students,” he said. “At Green Bay, that’s why we have a volleyball and softball team and no men’s equivalent of those sports. Because we’re roughly 65% females to 35% males in our student body, we are compelled under Title IX to ensure a proper resource allocation.”
Paquet said a common question about UWGB is, “Why don’t you have a football or a hockey team?”
“That’s a Title IX problem for the university because if we have one hockey team, we have to have two hockey teams,” he said. “It’s not a high school where if there is a boys’ hockey team but not a girls’ hockey team, the girls can simply play with the boys.”
Paquet said the student body ratio at UWGB is ever-changing, so if the number would change — for example, maybe to a 55-45 ratio — the school would have to change its resource allocations.
“That could be accomplished by giving more resources to a men’s program to balance that out or we’d have to add another sport,” he said.
Currently, UWGB offers women’s sports in basketball, cross country, golf, Nordic skiing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving and volleyball.
Men’s sports include basketball, cross country, golf, Nordic skiing, soccer and swimming and diving.