Ohio State celebrates 50th anniversary of Title IX
President Johnson, other notable female athletic figures discuss importance of legislation
A year of celebrations of Title IX began at The Ohio State University Thursday when President Kristina M. Johnson and other members of the university’s female athletic community spoke about the role the landmark legislation has played in their lives.
President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972:
“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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Women’s lives around the country and in every generation since were changed. For Johnson, this meant that while she was able to play only individual sports in high school, when she arrived at Stanford University, she was allowed to join the field hockey team and eventually go on to create a women’s lacrosse team with many of the same women.
“You all know what it’s like to be on a team, to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Johnson said to the assembled audience, which included many current female student-athletes. “That’s what I love about The Ohio State University. We’re all a part of something big, really big.”
Joining Johnson on the panel were her wife, Veronica Meinhard, who was an All-American swimmer at the University of Florida, current Ohio State women’s basketball player Jacy Sheldon, synchronized swimming coach Holly Vargo-Brown and retired deputy athletic director Miechelle Willis. The moderator of the discussion was Siobhan St. John, assistant cheer coach.
Meinhard, who grew up in Venezuela, shared that Title IX meant she could pursue her sport and her education, something she could not do in her home country.
“In my country, education is No. 1,” she said. “You quit your sport at 17 or 18. … The sheer opportunity to be able to pursue education and my sport, regardless of gender, was a huge issue for me.”
Sheldon, the youngest member of the panel, reflected on the history of gender equality in sports. When asked to describe Title IX in one word, she chose “movement.” She spoke about the United States’ 1996 women’s basketball team, the “Dream Team,” and the hurdles they had to overcome, despite their talent. She noted that there is still plenty of room for improvement, citing the differences in facilities for men’s and women’s basketball teams during the 2021 March Madness tournament.
“Everybody has at least a part, a role to get us where we are today,” she said.
Willis also shared thoughts about inequitable facilities and how those differences have decreased since 1962. While changes like these in higher education are significant, Willis argued that the most meaningful impacts are found at secondary schools.
“The talent, the pool of talent that we now have at the college level is a reflection of the opportunities that are provided to girls at the high school level,” she said. “Coaching opportunities at that level – this has had a huge impact on the competitive level in college.”
Rounding out the panel, Vargo-Brown reminded the audience of the importance of mindfulness around Title IX and equity issues.
“I think, particularly as things progress, you start to become comfortable in assuming everything is equal,” she said. “You don’t always stay mindful of each situation. ‘Is this really equal?’ ‘Are we providing equal opportunities?’ ‘Are we providing equal recognition?’ ‘Are we providing equal pay?’
“Yes, we are, and can we do more?”