EOSC president reflects on Title IX impact

·4 min read

Jun. 23—Dr. Janet Wansick dropped off her granddaughter at basketball camp and that moment reminded her of Title IX's impact.

Wansick, the first female president in Eastern Oklahoma State College's 114-year history, said she is grateful that some students and young people never experienced a time before Title IX expanded access and equity for women 50 years ago.

"It wouldn't have dawned on them that women couldn't play sports years ago, it wouldn't have even dawned on them that they couldn't come and take whatever classes they wanted to take," Wansick said. "So I mean, to me, I think that's the benefit is being able to have these kids that don't know that it was ever an issue."

Thursday marks the 50th year since Title IX was signed into federal law as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 to protect women from discrimination in educational programs.

"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," it reads.

Title IX made a prominent impact in sports. Less than 30,000 women competed in college sports before Title IX passed in 1972, and more than 200,000 women competed in 2021, according to the Women's Sports Foundation.

High school sports also changed with more than 10 times as many girls competing in 2018-19 than in 1972-73, Women's Sports Foundation data shows. Girls made up 7% of high school athletes in 1972-73, but that number jumped to 43% today.

Eastern started a shooting sports team a few years ago and its e-gaming club is becoming more competitive. Wansick said the college has considered a full e-sports program and a fishing team based on growing popularity. She knows other similar-sized schools have added wrestling teams, but said any program additions at EOSC would take more consideration.

Title IX also aims for inclusion in recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, housing, curricular material, services and much more among schools.

"I think it actually goes hand in hand with the mission of Eastern Oklahoma State — which to me, Title IX is about access and equity," Wansick said. "That's what it's all about is access to programs that you wouldn't have been able to access before. And then equity in that, you know, whether you're male or female, you can go down whichever path you want to."

Wansick said EOSC's historic trend of female students shows an increase in its science and engineering programs, as well as its agriculture division.

She said improved access and equity in education through Title IX also led to better career opportunities for women.

Wansick said she believes EOSC also sets an example for young women with its all-female leadership team.

"I think that it does set an example and, you know, show students that they can go beyond what they, what they might have thought that they could do," Wansick said.

Wansick is a longtime educator, starting as a math teacher at McAlester Public Schools from 1992 to 2002 before becoming a math professor at Northern Oklahoma College and East Central University.

She became dean of the Eastern Oklahoma State College McAlester Campus in 2011, served in several administrative roles at EOSC, then became vice president for academic affairs at Connors State College before being appointed to Eastern's top position.

Wansick said access to educational programs and services expanded for women since Title IX became law.

Eastern's housing includes an all-male dorm and an all-female dorm. Wansick said the college moved students out of the female dorm and into a new one to complete some renovations over the next 18 months.

Title IX also requires schools to adopt and publish grievance procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual harassment or sexual violence.

EOSC adopts a "kNOw More" campaign with full details of definitions, policy, and procedures on its website.

A victim can report an official complaint through the dean of students or anonymous complaint forms. The complaint then goes before an investigative committee and the school connects the victim with mental health, medical, and other resources.

Wansick said EOSC sees relatively few cases, but officials take every complaint seriously and work with students on preventative measures.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com