While it might be synonymous with athletics, Title IX has a much wider scope. The 1972 federal civil rights law prohibits all sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives funding from the federal government.
That’s why Colorado State University is now home to a standalone Office of Title IX Programs and Gender Equity, to resolve not just complaints of gender discrimination, but also sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and gender-based violence – offenses that all fall under the law per 2011 guidance from the Obama administration.
Victims of sexual violence aren’t the only non-athletes covered by Title IX. The law also ensures that students who are pregnant or have terminated a pregnancy are able to complete their education, and that gender does not play a role in admission or employment decisions.
“Without Title IX, society as we know it would look very different,” said Araina Muñiz, CSU’s Title IX director and coordinator. “Discrimination impacts everyone, not just those who are being discriminated against. Barriers to educational access impacts not only individual lives, but families, generations, and ultimately society as we know it.”
Muñiz and her team responded to well over 500 complaints over the last fiscal year alone, and must follow federal regulations to ensure fairness and equity for all parties involved. Victims who file Title IX complaints are often guided by on-campus resources, such as the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, which help them navigate the process and obtain the services they need.
“I think of it like an iceberg,” said Monica Rivera, the former director of the WGAC. “What’s above water as it relates to interpersonal violence on campus are the formal policies and procedures, but underwater are the cultural dynamics that we can all influence to make or break survivors’ experiences on campus. For example, while not mandated in a policy, having staff/faculty trained on victim advocacy resources can ensure survivors get what they need to stay safe and in school.”
While recognizing there is always room for improvement, Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes said she’s seen Title IX make a tangible difference. She’s been at CSU for 37 years, and was coming of age at a time where topics like sexual violence stayed hidden.
“We just didn’t talk about it, and I think about all of the people that suffered,” Hughes said. “Title IX helped change that.”
Home field: Women’s sports complex underway
The construction of Canvas Stadium and the adjoining football practice fields in 2017 freed up space north of Hughes Way and south of the Moby parking lot for a women’s athletics complex serving the softball and soccer teams, the first permanent home for soccer since the program debuted in 2013.
“We can make important renovations to a softball field that has remained unchanged for decades,” Joe Parker, CSU’s athletics director, said at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Spring 2022. “It allows us to give our soccer program a permanent space they will be proud to call home.”
The project, announced in 2019 but delayed by the pandemic, coincides with the 50th anniversary of Title IX and is expected to cost approximately $6.5 million. The facility should be ready for the Spring 2023 softball season and the Fall 2023 soccer season.
“The statement itself that this project makes to these young women – it says to them, ‘you are worthy’,” said softball coach Jen Fisher.
Largest gift to women’s athletics
On the actual anniversary of Title IX in September, the Bohemian Foundation made its own statement with a $5 million gift to CSU Athletics to be used to benefit women’s athletics. This is the largest single gift devoted solely to women’s athletics in Mountain West history.
The funds will be used not only for the women’s sports facility, but also to jump start the second phase of the locker room expansion at Moby Area.
Since Parker was hired in 2015, CSU’s women’s programs have claimed 15 conference championships, more than any other Mountain West school.
“It’s so easy to sell this place [to recruits] because of the beauty,” said Keeley Hagen, CSU’s soccer coach, “and now when we throw in some more things for our facilities, it’s just awesome.”