Northwestern to host panels, guest speakers to commemorate 50th anniversary of Title IX


Valerie Chu/The Daily Northwestern

Journalist, tennis player and panelist Mary Carillo gestures as she tells a story to her audience at a Thursday event. All events this weekend, which were planned across departments at the University, are free and open to the public.

Valerie Chu, Reporter

Some of the most respected women in fields like sports journalism and professional athletics will serve as panelists and guest speakers during cross-departmental events this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX

Title IX refers to a series of historic legislation passed in 1972 that prohibited discrimination based on sex for educational programs or activities receiving federal government funding. All events, which run from Oct. 27 to Oct. 29, are free and open to the public.

Medill Prof. Melissa Isaacson said she began envisioning Northwestern’s Title IX commemoration events after she published “State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation” in 2019. The book described her high school basketball team’s journey to winning a state championship shortly after Title IX eliminated prohibitions for women in sports. 

“To me, the 50th anniversary is, first and foremost, a time to realize that this was one of the most significant, if not the most significant law of the last half century,” Isaacson said. “And to pay a homage to that, my life was really forever changed, I believe, by the opportunities I was given in high school.”

With Medill Dean Charles Whitaker’s support through his suggestion to “shoot for the moon,” Isaacson gathered a cross-departmental team to bring the commemoration events to life. 

Kellogg Prof. and event organizer Therese McGuire said the purpose of the events is to not only celebrate the successes of Title IX by touching on what it means to NU students, but to also evaluate areas the University has for growth. Isaacson also said she is marking the anniversary with a “critical eye.” 

“It’s not celebrating; it’s really more recognizing the anniversary and then saying, ‘What can we do, what’s wrong and where do we go from here?’” Isaacson said. 

Medill Prof. Abigail Foerstner said she plans to bring her undergraduate environmental reporting class to the Friday morning panel “The Extraordinary Evolution of Title IX.” 

Foerstner said because the U.S. Supreme Court passed a ruling in June curbing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, it is important for her students to recognize the impact of legal actions.

“I’m hoping we can see that challenges to environmental regulations can indeed have impacts on other aspects of society,” Foerstner said. “Can there be a ripple effect into other areas such as Title IX? And other areas beyond that?”

Foerstner said she plans to discuss the economic and political significance of legal decisions like Title IX with her students after the panel.  

Some upcoming panels the University will host include: “From Athlete to C-Suite: How Title IX and Sports Have Launched Careers,” “Screening: ‘The Queen of Basketball,’” “Sexual Assault and Harassment on Campus: Title IX’s Changing Role” and “Hear My Story: The 50-Year Journey of Female Student-Athletes.”

McGuire also said the panelists — which include experts and people whose lives have been changed by Title IX — have inspirational stories. 

“(Title IX) is exciting for females, for the women whose lives have been changed by this law in this country,” McGuire said. “But it’s also super important for the men in our world to see how accomplished women and girls have been and can be when given the opportunity.”

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Related Stories:

Isaacson: Title IX was a dream for one generation. Now it’s time to wake up 

Fifty years after Title IX, coaching and leadership disparities persist for women 

The Daily’s 50 Years of Title IX Issue