SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When is comes to equality of opportunity, "37 words changed the world for the better," according to Roberta Page.
Page, director of championships with the NCAA and a 1988 Slippery Rock University graduate, returned to campus Tuesday to offer a symposium about the federal law commonly known as "Title IX."
Page's lecture, delivered in the Smith Student Center Theater, was part of the University's weeklong celebration leading up to inauguration of Cheryl Norton as the 16th president, and first woman, to lead the 8,500-student higher education institution. The formal ceremony is on the Quad at 10:30 a.m., Sept. 28.
Referencing the federal Education Amendment of 1972, best known as "Title IX," Page said, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to, discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
"Those 37 words changed the world for the better for both men and women," she said. The law took effect in 1975.
"Title IX is a really scary topic," she said. "There are not too many people who can call themselves an 'expert" in Title IX. But I will tell you what I know. It is something we always keep at the forefront in running national championships for the NCAA."
Page said while preparing for her SRU presentation, she spent time with NCAA officials and others who are experts in the law.
"Title IX does not just affect athletics," she said. "It provides access to higher education; career education - home economics vs. shop; education for pregnant and parenting students; employment; learning environment, math, science, technology; sexual harassment; and even preparation of standardized tests."
"Signs that 'Women need not apply' at universities are no longer acceptable. Career education schools are no longer allowed to deny access to courses in fields deemed 'inappropriate' for a particular gender. Women can now take woodworking, aviation, architecture and other courses," she said.
She said textbooks must no longer stereotype genders in photographs, such as only showing women as mothers, men as lawyers, policemen or pilots. "Girls used to be discouraged from math and science courses, now they must be given equal opportunities and attention in these kinds of courses. The line 'Boys will be Boys,' is no longer an acceptable defense of sexual harassment behaviors," she said.
Page said the NCAA originally sued to get rid of the law, but re-thought its position after a 1991 survey found male athletes enjoyed a 69.5 percent to 30.5 percent advantage over female athletes in participation opportunities and the budget imbalance showed operating budgets for men's and women's sports differed 77 percent to 33 percent. Scholarship funds were near the same in disparity, 70 percent for men athletes; 30 percent for female athletes.
"The NCAA is now one of Title IX's most ardent supporters," Page said.
What this means in terms of SRU, Page said, is that the University's athletic department is now required to fairly distribute financial aid, effectively accommodate students' interests and abilities in offering sport participation opportunities and provide equitable treatment and benefits to student athletes.
She said the 40-year-old law has brought about change.
"Girls high school athletics participation rate is 10-times what it was when Title IX was passed, an increase of 1,000 percent," she said, "In 1972, less than 30,000 females participated in intercollegiate athletics; in 2001 that number had grown to approximately 191,000. The NCAA began conducting NCAA championships for women in 1981 and now conducts 44 championships for women, plus three co-ed championships," Page said.
However, she said the number of female athletic directors remains low. The latest figures show only 9 percent of the athletic directors at Division I schools are female; 17 percent [up from 12 percent during the 1995-96 reporting period] in Division II schools; and 29 percent at Division III schools.
Her presentation included two NCAA videos, including one outlining how important NCAA championship festivals are to athletes by giving them a place to meet and share stories with fellow athletes at competing schools.
To emphasize the important contributions of Title IX, Page said the recent "London Olympics featured at least one female athlete from every country for the first time ever. Overall, the Olympics featured more females than males; and American women earned a record 58 medals, compared to 45 by American men."
"Shannon Eastin recently became the first female NFL referee; Michele Smith became the first female to provide analysis for a nationally-televised Major League Baseball game earlier this month; and Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore became the first female members of the Augusta National Golf Club," Page said
She had high praise for her alma mater, and said, "I knew in ninth grade that I was going to Slippery Rock University, it is where my coaches went and they were the female coaches I had in high school and they meant so much to me. I knew I wanted to be a health and physical education teacher - and that is exactly what I did."
She attributed her first job success to SRU's fine reputation. "My education here at Slippery Rock got me the in," she said.
Page also praised SRU's selection of Norton as its new president, citing her commitment to athletics. Norton played intercollegiate basketball and volleyball and is a black belt in tae kwon do, she said. Norton has also raced sled dogs, and joined in last Saturday's Inauguration 5K Fun Run, which helped raised funds to support the newly created Norton Undergraduate Research Scholarship.
Before joining the NCAA in 2009, Page served as director of intercollegiate athletics at Shippensburg University.
As director of championships, she is responsible for general administration and oversight of National Championships within Division I, II and III. She has direct oversight of Division II field hockey and the men's and women's tennis national championships.
She serves as NCAA staff liaison to the Division II Championships Committee and makes recommendations on policies and procedures governing all facets of Division I, II and III championships.
Page earned her master's of science degrees in physical education and educational leadership at Western Maryland College. She earned her doctorate, in educational leadership, at Duquesne University.
The theme of the Norton's inauguration is "Embracing the Challenge: Excellence, Innovation and Responsible Citizenship."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.