This summer, the US Department of Education (ED) will conduct in-depth investigations of how colleges and universities are treating women and men students and faculty in their science and mathematics departments. Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs, is best known for its effects on federally funded athletic opportunities. “This reminds educators and students that Title IX is designed to protect against much more than sex discrimination in athletics,” said Dr. Sue Klein, Education Equity Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation.
The current push to apply Title IX to academic departments stems in part from a July 2004 study by the Government Accountability Office that found that Title-IX compliance reviews in the sciences “have largely been neglected,” reports the National Journal. The compliance reviews of university math and science programs will look for policies that may result in women “feeling unwelcome in pursuing advanced degrees or tenured positions,” said Stephanie Monroe, assistant education secretary for civil rights, in Inside Higher Ed. The National Science Foundation is working with ED to create the review process, focusing in part on whether engineering and computer science departments offer as much support to women students as to men. Jocelyn Samuels of the National Women’s Law Center applauded the inquiries to Inside Higher Ed, but warned that “the devil will be in the details,” because “Discrimination is much broader than explicitly saying ‘we don’t want you here because you are a woman.’ There can be all forms of discrimination.”
Klein added that “This broadened attention to compliance should be accompanied by reminders to all institutions to involve their Title IX Coordinators in collecting, analyzing, and publishing sex and race statistics on students, staff, faculty, and administrators in science and related fields.”