It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for nine Gallaudet University women student-athletes on Tuesday afternoon as they attended a press conference about Title IX with United States of America Vice President Joe Biden on the campus of George Washington University in the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center.
The Bison joined other women from the professional, collegiate, high school and youth ranks from the area and nationally including the 2010 USA women’s ice hockey silver medalist team. Select members from these groups including Team USA, Washington Mystics, Washington Freedom, George Mason University, George Washington University and local girl scouts to name a few got a chance to stand behind Vice President Biden during the announcement.
Biden was joined by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Duke University women’s basketball senior forward Joy Cheek who had the prestigious honor introducing the Vice President. Cheek, is the niece of Gallaudet University head groundskeeper Ronald Cheek.
The Title IX announcement today by the U.S. Department of Education repeals a Bush-era policy which was widely criticized for being “inadequate and inconsistent” with the goals of Title IX policy. The old policy set by the Bush administration in 2005 allowed colleges and high schools to use just a survey to prove a lack of interest in starting a new women’s sport. A non-response or a blank questionnaire was considered as disinterested.
“Making Title IX as strong as possible is a no-brainer,” said Vice President Biden. “What we’re doing here today will better ensure equal opportunity in athletics, and allow women to realize their potential – so this nation can realize its potential.”
The U.S. Department of Education has sent letters about the change in policy to more than 15,600 school districts and 5,600 college and university presidents.
"We have to make sure that all of the women and girls here and nationwide reach their potential and have opportunity. My one wish is for every woman to have the same opportunity as a man. It is not just here but around the world,” said Biden to the crowd of several hundred. “Title IX has done so much to change the attitudes of men and women [over the years].”
The 1972 Title IX education amendment required gender equity in sports programs at educational institutions receiving federal funds.
“I did not realize the impact of Title IX has had on women’s athletics over the years. As a woman student-athlete I truly appreciate the establishment of Title IX,” said Gallaudet senior volleyball player Shana Lehmann, who attended the press conference. “The speech also made me reflect on the importance of encouraging young girls to participate in athletics at an early age and to be given equal opportunities to play.”
The Gallaudet contingent included Director of Athletics Michael Weinstock, Title IX coordinator and Women’s Soccer coach Sarah Gumina, Women’s Volleyball coach Lynn Ray Boren, Women’s Basketball coach Kevin Cook, Sports Information Director Sam Atkinson, and student-athletes Johanna Arrigo (women’s soccer), Easter Faafiti (women’s basketball), Kara Gulvas (women’s soccer, softball), Justine Jeter (volleyball), Paige Johnson (volleyball), Amanda Krieger (volleyball), Lehmann (volleyball), Tiffany Narciso (women’s soccer) and Ann Whited (volleyball, women’s basketball).
“This event was a great opportunity for our women student-athletes to learn more about Title IX and to understand more about the policy. I am glad Vice President Biden emphasized the importance of equal access for female athletes,” said Weinstock.
Biden worked the crowd after the press conference concluded and shook hands and posed for pictures. The Gallaudet group was unable to personally meet Vice President Biden but presented a special women’s soccer scarf to Biden’s assistant to give to him. The Bison mingled with members of the 2010 USA women’s ice hockey team, Joy Cheek and some other members of the WNBA.
This announcement by the Obama administration today will have the chance to change the way people think of Title IX and for one Bison how she will hopes to view the future.
“I am thankful for Title IX and the opportunities it has allowed me as a student-athlete,” said Arrigo. “I share the same goal as the Vice President about Title IX blending in over time. Hopefully by the time I am a mother to a daughter the thought of Title IX will be more commonplace.”