An article in the New York Times pays homage to Bernice Sandler (Ed.D. ’69), champion of workplace reform for women in education.
According to the article, when Dr. Sandler was a schoolgirl, “she was annoyed that she was not allowed to do things that boys could do, like be a crossing guard, fill the inkwells or operate the slide projector.”
The trend continued as she got older when she was not able to obtain a full-time faculty position at the University of Maryland because she was considered too headstrong for a woman. By this time, in 1969, she was “good and mad,” according to the article.
But the experiences put her on a path to become a leading advocate for women’s rights in the educational workplace. She was instrumental in creating, implementing, and passing Title IX, an all-encompassing 1972 civil rights law barring sex discrimination at educational institutions. The law had wide implications for the education landscape, including requiring that male and female students have equal access to admissions as well as resources and financial assistance.
Dr. Sandler also applied Title IX to cases of sexual discrimination in university athletic departments and sexual harassment and assault of students, requiring that schools receiving federal funding must work to prevent such conduct on campuses. In essence, Title IX opened opportunities to combat sexual discrimination in diverse—and unexpected—academic venues.
The New York Times quoted Marty Langelan, a sexual harassment expert and friend of Dr. Sandler’s, as saying, “Title IX turned out to be the legislative equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.”
Dr. Sandler continued to delve into research on discrimination for the rest of her life, at first predicting that change would come in short-time. However, she eventually concluded that real change would take more than her lifetime to accomplish, according to the article. Still, she felt that Title IX precipitated a great social revolution, declaring that women and men “are far closer to equal than they have ever been in the history of the world.”
Dr. Sandler is survived by her daughters and grandchildren. She was honored with an induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.