When Mary Stamey played basketball in the late 1960s, she never thought that she’d be considered a trailblazer for what would become a key element of the women’s rights movement.
Stamey, a member of what is now referred to as the first intercollegiate women’s basketball team at K-State, said that at the time, she and her teammates were just playing basketball because it was fun.
It wasn’t until 40 years after she graduated — when she met her teammates for a reunion — that Stamey said she realized the magnitude of what they started at K-State. The fight for women’s rights in the United States had just started, and Richard Nixon would not sign Title IX into law until the summer of 1972.
“At the time we didn’t realize that we were stepping into it, we just wanted to play basketball, we loved the game, we loved to play and politically, there were so many other things going on that politics of athletics wasn’t a big deal at the time,” Stamey said. “It was heartwarming to say that we really were trailblazers, and we didn’t even know it and we didn’t even try to be.”
After graduating in 1969 with a degree in physical education, Stamey went on to teach PE to junior high school girls, and most of the women she played with went on to start volleyball, tennis, basketball and other sports teams for girls in schools across Kansas.
When Title IX was signed into law as a piece of the Education Amendments of 1972, Stamey coached track and field. Eventually, Stamey would look to start a basketball team in the public school she worked in.
Angela Hubler, interim head of the Department of Gender, Women and Sexualities Studies at K-State, said Title IX was a “critically important” addition to the American education system.
The law, which outlaws the discrimination against an individual on the basis of sex, governs all education institutions that receive funding from the federal government.
“It has made a huge impact in terms of the number of women who participate in sports at the secondary level and also at the collegiate level,” Hubler said. “That’s really important because we know one of the impacts of gender stereotyping is that girls and women are taught that they should be ornamental and look pretty. Female self-esteem is very much tied to physical appearance and one of the things that has a positive influence on the way you think about your body is whether or not you participate in sports.
“If your body is something that is strong and flexible and can run fast or jump high, then it completely transforms your sense of just a decorative object to be looked at,” Hubler continued.
When she started asking for a women’s basketball team at the school she was working at, Stamey said she started to experience unexpected pushback from her male counterparts. Stamey said the push for women’s athletics was viewed as an “interruption” more than anything. Mostly, Stamey said people were worried about the money and how the lack of funding would affect pre-Title IX sports teams.
Stamey said she recalled one of the most prominent arguments was that if the girls’ basketball team got jerseys, then the football team couldn’t get new helmets.
“It all boiled down to dollars,” Stamey said.
While there were standards women were expected to uphold, Stamey said she didn’t believe the pushback was intentional discrimination.
“There were expectations of women, but not just the basketball team. At that time, the expectations were that you did not wear slacks, you wore a dress or skirts, way more dressed up than we are now,” Stamey said.
“Basketball is one avenue of expressing yourself and there’s so many other ways and if we hinder women, as long as you’re talking about Title IX, if we hinder a woman from becoming the real person that they want to be, then we need to work on that,” Stamey said. “Everyone thought of athletics first, that’s what we thought about because it was the most visible. Title IX encompasses way more than that, far more than that.”
Stamey said though she thinks K-State has done a good job of keeping up with the times, there are some areas that everybody needs to work on, both inside and outside of the university.
“As a woman, I know that there’s still a long way to go with equal pay, expectations of women or what constitutes rape,” Stamey said.
In 2018, Title IX covers more than just athletic programs. Hubler said the ability of the legislation to be relative to so many facets of modern day education is because the amendment itself is so simple and has been interpreted by the courts to be relevant to such instances like sexual assault or other types of sexually based misconduct.
“Looking at Title IX as a policy that attempts to address some of these inequalities is central to the academic project that we are engaged in,” Hubler said.
As of April of 2017, K-State was tied for the second most Title IX lawsuits in the country with Stanford University at five open cases. Scott Jones, Title IX coordinator for K-State, did not respond to requests for comment.
As it stands now, the policy that operates in compliance with Title IX at K-State is PPM3010, which, according to Heather Reed, assistant vice president for the Office of Student Life, protects students and faculty alike from gender-based discrimination.
While PPM3010, in policy, is in compliance with the law, Hubler said other K-State policies go against some university requirements put forward in the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague Letter”. The statement, issued by the Department of Education in 2011 and repealed under Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ tenure, required universities to handle all sexual misconduct perpetrated by anyone affiliated with the university in the same manner, regardless of where the attack occurred.
“If the guidelines issued by the Department of Education were actually being followed at K-State, and they are not, and elsewhere, the climate would be a much more equitable one,” Hubler said. “I think that someone who is raped off campus and then has to see their rapist on campus, that has a negative impact upon their opportunity to receive a fair and equitable education and so the continuing refusal of K-State to implement that policy, I think, is very problematic.”
On August 14, 2017, K-State enacted new policies regarding the organization and affiliation of student groups. Chapter 8540 of the Policies and Procedures Manual labels student organizations as either Departmental Student Organizations or Independent Student Organizations.
A DSO is a “registered organization having a purpose that is critical to the mission of the University and that is sponsored by a department.” An ISO is any other organization “not operated by or affiliated with the University.” These changes effectively absolve the university of liability in future incidents related to student organizations.
“I think it’s shameful,” Hubler said. “I believe that new policy was implemented in an attempt to insulate the university from legal liability from rape and sexual assault that takes place off campus.”
Stamey, while she said she didn’t feel qualified to make any statements about the legalities of the policy, said she felt confident in making a comparison between public kindergarten through twelfth grade education and university policies.
“If a child gets on a bus at the bus stop and something happens at the bus stop, the school district is responsible,” Stamey said.