LAWRENCE — More than 40 years after the passing of the revolutionary Title IX legislation, women enjoy more educational opportunities than ever before in United States history. However, the passing of Title IX did not cause immediate change across the nation.
At the University of Kansas, one female student athlete led the fight for Title IX compliance, charting the course for universities around the nation working for equal rights for female students.
Anne Levinson, who received her Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1980 from KU, will return to campus Thursday, March 28, to discuss her work for Title IX at KU, as well as her later career as a judge, WNBA team owner and public official. The panel will take place at 7 p.m. in the Big 12 Room in the Kansas Union.
Levinson will be joined on the panel by former faculty, administrators and students who were active in the Title IX movement at KU in the 1970s and 1980s. She will also visit classes in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies to discuss her career in public service. Her visit is part of the Professor for a Day program through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Chancellor Emeritus Del Shankel will moderate the panel. Reggie Robinson, professor of law at Washburn University; Steve Leben, Kansas Court of Appeals judge, and Betty Banks, professor emerita of classics, will be on the panel with Levinson.
Each member of the panel played a part in the fight for Title IX compliance at KU. After the amendment passed in 1972, universities across the nation grappled with how to enforce the legislation prohibiting discrimination by calling for equal access to opportunities and benefits regardless of sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. At KU, as at many universities, the issue of matched funding, support and services for female athletes met heavy resistance.
Levinson, a member of the KU field hockey team, received the sole scholarship for the team and shortly found out that KU planned to cancel the team – and most other women’s sports. Encouraged by Banks, Levinson researched Title IX and filed a suit against the university. The government investigated, and the university formed a plan to comply with the regulations.
“Title IX work consumed my university activities,” Levinson said. “It turned out to provide my path and the path for thousands of women who attended KU after that.”
After graduating from KU, Levinson attended law school to pursue her newfound passion for social justice. Later, during her time as a municipal judge in Seattle, she founded one of the nation’s first mental health courts to help individuals with mental health issues get out of the judicial system and connect them with treatment and services. She also served as the deputy mayor of Seattle, and Levinson became an owner of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm in a successful effort to keep the team from moving to Oklahoma.
Levinson now serves as a consultant to Seattle on issues of police misconduct. She remains active in political and civic issues, including successfully leading the support for Referendum 71 as one of the state’s first openly LGBT public officials. The referendum gave same-sex families the same rights and legal protections as opposite-sex families in Washington.
“I think it’s important for young people, particularly young women, to question whether something really can’t be done or if there are other ways to do it,” Levinson said. “It will always seem there are not enough hours in the day, but everybody can contribute to positive change.”
The Professor for a Day program is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. It is the broadest and most diverse academic unit at KU.