Roy Exum: The Yale Women’s Famous Stand

Monday, June 18, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

This Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of what is commonly called “Title IX,” which is a critical part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and assures females gender equity in any educational and athletic settings that receive federal funding. I remember when Richard Nixon signed it into law and, if you want to know how far women have come since then, consider the fact that of the 9.5 million Americans who ran and finished road races last year, clearly one half were females.

Back then the “Chicken Littles” in college athletics feared the sky would surely fall with the required funding of women’s sports, but it has proven to be a Godsend for deserving female athletes all across the country.

Colleges have learned they can indeed support and fund women’s teams in various sports and there is more acceptance and appreciation for women’s athletics than ever before.

Sadly, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has seen a 78 percent increase in sexual harassment complaints between 2008 and 2011 and, just last week, Yale University agreed to take a wide range of actions to improve compliance and erase complaints with Title IX requirements. Believe it or not, I’ve always figured that Yale, which didn’t even accept women as students until 1969, was a big reason Title IX was finally accepted.

You need to know that every university was unnerved by Title IX at first. Unable to foresee the TV riches yet to come, some thought Title IX would do severe damage to the biggest bread winner, college football, and realized it would take decades before women’s sports would ever become self-sufficient. But when the Yale crew team took a valiant stand on March 3, 1976, the nation realized women’s athletics should most definitely become part of the educational process.

After practice each afternoon the Yale women would be forced to wait while the men’s crew team took showers. The women’s crew would be wet, cold and tired, but – because they were women – the men got priority. Further, the females were subjected to catcalls, loathsome behavior and sexual innuendo by Yale’s male athletes. Finally they craftily devised a plan of “shock and awe.”

What happened that afternoon was that the Yale women, tired of being treated as second-class citizens since they were clearly better than the men’s team, marched into the athletic administration offices and all 19 stripped buck naked. They’d painted “Title IX” on their backs and sternums and stood solemn-faced – and nude -- as team captain Christine Ernst read a statement. “These are the bodies Yale is exploiting. “We have come here today to make clear how unprotected we are, to show graphically what we are being exposed to … On a day like today, the rain freezes on our skin,” she said. “Then we sit on a bus for half an hour as the ice melts into our sweats to meet the sweat that has soaked our clothing underneath.” After the statement was read, the women put back on their clothes and left, sensing a victory. David Zweig, a campus sports writer who sat with his back towards the naked women out of respect, later recalled, “I vividly remember the feelings in that room. There was shock, surprise, hurt, pain, anger. But there isn’t a single word that describes those five minutes…”

Suffice it to say shower facilities for women were quickly made in Gilder Boathouse and, by the next spring, a new addition was made to house the Yale women rowers. Far better, many Yale alumni sent letters – and checks – towards the new awareness for women’s athletics and embarrassment that such conduct had been tolerated.

Last week it was learned Yale would take a pro-active stand towards more recent complaints. Russlyn Ali, a spokeswoman for the Office of Civil Rights, said, “Students cannot learn if they don’t feel safe, and sexual harassment and assault interfere with a student’s right to receive an education free of discrimination.”

The OCR investigation found many “tragic” incidents have occurred at Yale and the university, in a statement, asserted it was “pleased with the terms” of a new voluntary agreement that will comply with Title IX guidelines.

So while Title IX still has its problems after the first 40 years, there is now a willingness to comply and nobody needs to get naked ever again to take a stand for what is good and right in athletics.

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: DeVos Changes Everything

I believe that from every point on my moral compass the state’s hijacking of five public schools in Hamilton County is wrong. I also believe I can argue with success from any direction on my compass against any of the proposals or terms that Commissioner Candice McQueen just threatened to impose on the county’s Department of Education. But today let’s go to ‘True North’ on my compass ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: 100 Graduation Truths

A tad over 25 years ago -- 1991 to be exact -- a brilliant Nashville advertising executive created a list of life’s truths to present his son on the eve of his high school graduation. From that, a glorious book entitled “Life’s Little Instruction Book” was born and H. Jackson Brown Jr. created a gold mine. I’m talking two years on the New York Times’ best-seller list. I am one of ... (click for more)

Erlanger Expects $5 Million Profit Despite "Very Challenging" Budget

Erlanger Health System officials said they expect a $5 million profit for the upcoming fiscal year despite a "very challenging" budget. Britt Tabor, chief financial officer, said there will be continued top line growth, which has brought a 51 percent rise in patient revenue over the past five years. "This is organic growth. It's not from mergers or acquisitions," Mr. Tabor ... (click for more)

Public Defender Says Another Entity Needs To Continue Funding For New Mental Health Court

Public Defender Steve Smith said another entity needs to take over funding the new Mental Health Court. He said Criminal Court Judge Don Poole has agreed to oversee the court and will make a budget presentation to the County Commission on May 31. Mr. Smith told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that he has been funding the program through the services of Anna Protano ... (click for more)

Lennex Walker Wins A-AA State Pentathlon Again

MURFREESBORO -- The final Spring Fling is off to a roaring start for CSAS senior Lennex Walker. The most decorated track and field athlete ever for the Lady Patriots, Walker got the ball rolling with a victory in the Class A-AA Pentahlon at the Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium Monday afternoon by winning three of the five events and finishing first with 3,306 points. Unicoi ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Reaches Class A/AA State Soccer Tournament

The setting was nothing new for the seven seniors on the Boyd-Buchanan boys’ soccer team, but this time the Bucs got to celebrate a different outcome.   Playing in their fourth consecutive Class A/AA state sectional, the Bucs put three years of heartbreak behind them by earning a 1-0 victory over Merrol Hyde and a trip to this week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro. ... (click for more)