A Moment in History: Celebrating 50 Years of Title IX with Dena Freeman-Patton
By: Ashlyn J. Wilson with SGJC Student News Network
On June 23, 1972, the Title IX legislation passed, marking a monumental milestone in United States history.
The legislation was signed into law by President Richard Nixon with great influence from Democratic Representative Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House.
The Title IX law prohibits any form of discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
While the law protects both men and women against non-discriminatory practices in education, this enactment marked a major progression in equality for women in sports.
“For me it wasn’t a new thing to be a woman in this industry because I was fortunate enough that women ahead of me that benefited from Title IX early as high school. I had a woman athletics director at my high school here in Baltimore, Maryland…,” said Dena Freeman-Patton, the first woman athletic director at Morgan State University.
“And so, I already saw women in this role and it wasn’t until other people told me that it was not typical for a woman to be a leader or be an athletics director in this country that I had to realize that it wasn’t something that was common.” she continued.
Before Title IX, there were very few opportunities presented for women athletes. While the law has made significant strides for women over the last half century, there is still little representation in some “male-dominated” industries.
“I got both my bachelors and masters in sports administration which is not a field where, or class [that] had very many women in [it], at the time. Especially in undergrad when I got my bachelor’s degree.” said Patton.
However, Freeman-Patton says having women representation helped her take on her leadership role today.
“The fact that I saw [woman representation] at a young age helped me,” said Freeman-Patton. “And so for me to be in this role now, to be the first woman athletics director here at Morgan State University, to me it's about representation and being able to be that visual to other young women and young girls.”
Conversely, in effort to create a more cohesive, non-discriminatory environment at Morgan State University, Freeman-Patton plans to provide all athletes what they need.
“It’s all about making sure our student athletes have what they need… My job is to make sure that all our student athletes have what they need, which in turn allows for equity.
Freeman-Patton believes that her experience as a former chair of the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee at the National Collegiate Athletic Association and giving student athletes a voice will help sustain an equitable environment for men and women at the university.
Title IX has opened the door for many women over the last 50 years, however there is still more work to be done.
“There’s still not a lot of me out there, or not a lot of Black women especially in these roles,” said Patton. “So I still think it’s important overall whether it's for the president of the university, whether it's for higher positions in cabinet at the university, whether it's in other sectors of our country and in society, I think it's still important to have that advocacy.”