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woman and men talking

This message was shared with the students, faculty and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on June 23, 2022.

Fifty years ago today, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments was signed into law. The enduring civil rights legislation addressing gender equity in education is particularly significant for the university as one of its main authors, Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink, a University of Hawaiʻi Distinguished Alumna, was Title IX’s most staunch institutional advocate. The act simply and profoundly states, “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.”

Patsy Mink in a parade with a sign
Screengrab from the documentary “Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority” from the Making Waves Films Collection

Despite significant resistance, the Maui-born Congresswoman and her co-authors transformed U.S. schools and universities by prohibiting educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex in any way. To honor her unwavering commitment and perseverance to bring gender equity to all dimensions of education, Congress renamed Title IX as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 after her death. While Mink had been denied admission to medical school for being a woman, Title IX now prohibits gender-based discrimination in any and all disciplines. Title IX also ensures equitable participation regardless of gender in athletics. And Title IX prohibits sex-based harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment. These are all protections that must be ensured by any educational institution that receives federal financial assistance for all students and employees whether they are female, male, or non-binary.

Given the expansive scope of Title IX, legislators could have written hundreds of pages and not achieved what these 37 words have done. We have no idea what contributions Patsy would have made as a doctor had she been admitted to medical school. But it’s hard to imagine that she could have had a greater impact on Hawaiʻi and the nation than what she accomplished as a public servant armed with her law school education and her relentless passion for justice for all.

To honor the 50th anniversary of Title IX, and Patsy Mink, we have planned numerous educational and commemorative events this year to celebrate what we have accomplished, critique what is still before us, and challenge us to think about the importance of Title IX and its legacy. Throughout this year and as we look forward to the next 50 years of Title IX, we’re reminded that while much has been accomplished, there is still more work ahead. We will remain steadfast in our commitment to future generations of students as the only provider of public higher education in Hawaiʻi, maintaining our pledge to advance civil rights and gender equity protections within our university community. The University will continue to provide educational programming to raise awareness of Title IX rights and resources, strengthen programmatic initiatives toward prevention and early reporting, provide training and support resources for students and employees, and recommit to our collaborations with community partners. It is my hope that the underlying values of equity, inclusion, and justice championed within the spirit and intent of Title IX will bring about long-lasting change and a culture shift toward a future at UH free from all forms of sex discrimination while ensuring and celebrating equal opportunity and access to education for all.

E mālama pono,
David Lassner
UH Presidnt

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