Fresno tied to Title IX over decades

Video: Bernice Sandler coaches Women’s Studies students and faculty who are trying to improve policies at the California State University, Fresno, in November 2014.

People all over the United States have links to Title IX. I’m enjoying seeing the fingers of this important law poke up in some unexpected places as I research its history and today’s in-the-news developments. Among them: Fresno, California, which appears often enough that it serves as an example of nearly every phase of Title IX.

For example, Frederick W. Ness was president of Fresno State College just before becoming president of the Association of American Colleges and hiring Bernice Sandler to run the Project on the Status and Education of Women. The Project played an essential role in collecting and sharing information about discrimination against women on college campuses and what to do about it. Why would a relatively conservative man from a relatively conservative college (in that era) do something so relatively radical for that time? Reportedly, he had multiple daughters. And Sandler was smart enough to frame the Project’s work as giving college presidents the information they needed about fast-paced changes in rules and regulations related to women on their campuses, not as advocacy.

Meg Newman, who called the American Civil Liberties Union in high school to seek a legal remedy when she was not allowed to play baseball, went on to attend Fresno State (now the California State University at Fresno), and later became a physician — a career path provided to her by Title IX.

Fresno State coach and athletics administrator Diane Milutinovich won a $3.5 million settlement against the school in 2007 for sex discrimination, one of several cases resulting in multimillion-dollar verdicts or settlements. The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Milutinovich in November 2014 partly for her advocacy for Title IX implementation and equity in athletics between sexes.

Today at Fresno State, a coalition of female students and their allies are agitating to improve the college’s policies for handling complaints about sexual assault or sexual harassment. Some of them met with Bernice Sandler in November 2014 when she came to speak on campus, and I captured the 50-minute brainstorming session on video. The advice and suggestions from Sandler — who coined the term “gang rape” in the 1970s — epitomize her decades of experience with Title IX. She asked me to post the video in its entirety in case students at other campuses find it helpful in their own advocacy work.

 

Bernice Sandler (left) and Diane Milutinovich in Fresno, November 2014.

Bernice Sandler (left) and Diane Milutinovich in Fresno, November 2014.

 

 

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