Remembering Title IX’s influence on W&L

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the law, which sparked the university’s admission of women

Abby Kim, Staff Writer

The Washington and Lee community celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a momentous step towards gender equality in the United States.
Title IX, passed in 1972, is a federal civil rights law that “prohibits sex-based discrimination in any education programs and/or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” says the U.S. Department of Education. Through its wide reach, the piece of legal enforcement was integral in diminishing discrimination and exclusion based on sex on a national scale.
Lauren Kozak, Title IX coordinator and director of disability resources, is one to advocate for its influence on the nation.
“It has very simple statutory language, but broad reach,” Kozak said.
Title IX’s impact is one of the very reasons that Washington and Lee is able to host its diverse student body today. According to the Washington and Lee Class of 2026 Profile, 52% of the population enrolled were women, and percentages of various minorities increased compared to previous years.
It is through Title IX that women were able to enroll in Washington and Lee at all, said Professor Sarah Horowitz, history professor and the head of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.
“This law is especially important for colleges and universities that were traditionally all men, like Washington and Lee; when the institution went co-ed, women would have otherwise been at a severe disadvantage,” Horowitz said.
Kozak said that Washington and Lee did not accept women until 1985. That’s 13 years after Title IX’s passing before the law’s influence reached Washington and Lee– most likely due to restrictions in place at the time.
“There [was] a private college admissions exemption to Title IX, which [permitted] private institutions to discriminate on the basis of sex in admissions,” Kozak said.
Ever since, there have been improvements to sex and gender equality on campus. Most noticeably through athletics and student organizations, women’s involvement in campus life dramatically increased because of Title IX’s influence.
“Prior to Title IX, women’s participation in university programs and activities, including athletics, was very limited. Title IX greatly expanded access to education to women,” Kozak said.
Title IX’s 50th anniversary took place in June of this year. By transforming Washington and Lee from an all-men school into the community that it is today, Title IX changed people, institutions and education in the United States.
Even to this day, Title IX continues to do imperative work in the nation’s education system. It “continues to evolve, [as evident with] the Biden administration [releasing] proposed regulations impacting Title IX rules related to sexual harassment and assault,” Kozak said.
Washington and Lee had no comment on plans to celebrate the momentous date.