Men fought (and fight) for Title IX too

Vincent Macaluso, the "godfather" of Title IX, at home in 2015.

Vincent Macaluso, the “godfather” of Title IX, at home in 2015.

From 93-year-old Vincent Macaluso to young men on college campuses today, a long line of male allies to women helped bring us Title IX and are fighting to uphold its principles of fairness.

(Video: The Godfather of Title IX)

While we wouldn’t have this essential law without all the uppity women who pushed for it, let’s take a moment on this 43rd anniversary of President Nixon signing Title IX (June 23, 1972) to recognize its forefathers, in a week when the nation also celebrates Father’s Day.

Much of the momentum leading up to Title IX came from a slew of federal complaints about sex discrimination in colleges and universities. Bernice Sandler filed those complaints, but it was her husband, Jerrold, who helped convince her that a lack of job offers once she got her doctoral degree was due to systemic discrimination, not some personal failing, she said. She read everything she could find on the topic and stumbled on a reference to Executive Order 11246 as amended by Executive Order 11375 in 1968 to prohibit sex discrimination by federal contractors. Sandler had the novel thought in 1969 that this could apply to educational institutions, nearly all of which get federal funds, but she was unsure and politically naive. So she called the Office of Federal Contract Compliance at the U.S. Department of Labor. Lucky for us all, she got Vincent Macaluso on the line. Hear them talk about their serendipitous collaboration in this video, shot in 2014 and 2015.

Macaluso had been waiting for just such a call. Quietly, he coached Sandler on how to file complaints under the executive orders, though he never included this in his work reports because his role as a government bureaucrat didn’t officially include advocacy.

Sandler’s complaints helped inspire Rep. Edith Green to hold the first Congressional hearings on sex discrimination in education and to draft Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate was a feminist man from a conservative state — Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN), who drew great inspiration on women’s issues from his wife, Marvella. A conservative Republican in the White House signed the bill into law (Nixon).

Over the past four decades critics of Title IX often have framed it as a female-versus-male controversy, but that’s an arbitrary view. In the 1970s, the first lawsuits filed under Title IX to address inequities in athletics came from the fathers of talented daughters, according to Margot Polivy, who was the attorney for the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in that era. Male attorneys and judges have stepped forward over the years to bolster or defend Title IX.

Today, men as well as women find protection behind Title IX. I’m impressed by the male victims of sexual assault in college who chose to speak out in the moving film The Hunting Ground. I’m even more impressed by men like James Vivenzio, who recently sued Pennsylvania State University and his fraternity for failing to act when he reported dangerous hazing and sexual assaults. He has paid a price for his integrity, including social ostracism and post-traumatic stress disorder from what he’d seen — and he ended up dropping out of college because of it. Title IX is for him, too.

There are many, many more supportive men in the story of Title IX. These are just a few.

The next time that the negativity of Internet chatter makes it seem like pro-Title IX women are anti-men and men are anti-Title IX, remember these Title IX forefathers and their “sons.”  We’re all brothers and sisters in the fight for fairness.

Update Jan. 18, 2017: Vincent Macaluso died at the age of 94 of congestive heart failure on Nov. 8, 2016, the day America elected a president who proudly trumpets everything Macaluso fought against — racism, sexism, classism, disdain for people with disabilities, unfairness, and bullying. You might say he died of a broken heart.

Update Jan. 19, 2017: This just in from Judith Macaluso, Vincent’s wife: “Vince was surprised and deeply pleased by the appreciation you and others showed for his life’s work. I can reassure you on one point. Vince died knowing that Hillary would be elected! The last political information he had was that Comey had sent the letter to Congress saying that Weiner’s emails did not detract from the FBI’s earlier decision not to seek an indictment and that Sam Wang [my note: of the Princeton Election Consortium] had increased Hillary’s odds from 98% to 99%. He died on 11/8 before the election results were announced. Since he was dying imminently, I am very glad he exited before 11/9.”

I’m relieved to know Mr. Macaluso died thinking we had elected our first female president.

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