Douglass hosts lecture on Title IX, public policy at Rutgers

<p>&nbsp;Jacquelyn Litt, the dean of Douglass Residential College, said the Public Leadership Education Network was founded 40 years ago. The purpose of the lectures, which are part of the program, are to give students the opportunity to learn about careers in politics and public policy.&nbsp;</p>

 Jacquelyn Litt, the dean of Douglass Residential College, said the Public Leadership Education Network was founded 40 years ago. The purpose of the lectures, which are part of the program, are to give students the opportunity to learn about careers in politics and public policy. 

Last Friday, Douglass Residential College hosted a lecture and luncheon titled, “On the Basis of Sex: The Changing Landscape of Title IX” in the Douglass Student Center.  

The title of the lecture was a both a reference to the recent blockbuster, “On the Basis of Sex,” which detailed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s journey as a woman into politics, and an acknowledgement of how Title IX has changed since it was first established 47 years ago. The lecture is part of the Douglass Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), a joint program with the Eagleton Institute of Politics that gives students the opportunity to look at careers in public policy and politics.  

 “(PLEN) was founded 40 years ago by a collection of women’s colleges … Douglass, Rutgers and Eagleton were really central in founding this organization,” said Jacquelyn Litt, dean of Douglass Residential College and professor of the Departments of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. 

The PLEN program’s lecture forum has previously held panels with various notable political leaders, such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. Today, though, with the growing number of women holding leadership positions in politics, Litt said the program is even more exciting and important.

During the lecture, Litt also referenced Cheri Beasley, a Douglass alumna and PLEN student who made history by becoming the first Black chief justice in the North Carolina Supreme Court. Beasley was able to speak to the audience through a phone call, and said Douglass was very important to her, singling out PLEN and Eagleton for being beneficial in her education and development.

The keynote speaker for this lecture was Tamara J. Britt, general counsel of Manhattan College and adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School.

She began by stating the parallels of her life with the notable Black women mentioned in the program. Chisholm was an inspiration to Britt’s grandmother, who co-founded the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute in her honor. Regarding Beasley, Britt said her mother previously left the state of North Carolina due to racism and sexism. 

Britt also attributed her experience as an undergraduate to playing an important role in her later career in policy, an area she said was often overshadowed by law and politics.

“Policy is important. I am privileged to do both,” she said.

Regarding Title IX, Britt said she was unaware of how it affected students until she was looking at colleges for her son and a college admissions counselor blamed the low amount of colleges that had what Britt was looking for on Title IX. 

She also said that people had many misconceptions about Title IX, but knew more about it than other parts of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972. While other parts of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 addressed financial aid and grants, such as Title IV, Title IX was based strictly on gender equality.

“If you want to talk about the intersection of law, politics and policy, you bring up Title IX,” she said. 

Title IX began as a way to focus on gender equality, claiming that on the basis of sex, no one should be excluded from participation or be discriminated under any educational program or activity receiving federal funding.

The law later expanded to address sexual assault in schools. In 2017, Britt said the US Department of Education laid out new regulations on sexual misconduct on campus, detailing what sexual harassment is and how universities and colleges should move forward. 

“College and universities are educational institutions, not arms or alternatives to the criminal justice system,” Britt said, reading aloud from the American Council on Educator's comments on the proposed regulations.

While all individuals are required to be treated the same under Title IX, she said most colleges do this regardless of federal legislation.

“That’s just the way we feel about our students,” Britt said. 

PLEN was a three-part program, according to a brochure from the lecture. One part involved bringing in political leaders for a seven-class forum lecture series in the spring, another involved a seven-week internship in Trenton to work for the New Jersey government and the third was the Douglass in D.C. program, which allowed students to attend seminars and conferences in the capital. 

The PLEN program and Douglass Residential College share a common goal and slogan, which Litt said: “Preparing women to lead.”

Editor's Note // A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Tamara J. Britt's title, that her grandmother founded the Shirley Chisholm Institute and that Britt read aloud from regulations from Title IX. The article has been updated to correctly reflect her title, that her grandmother co-founded the institute and that she read from comments on the proposed regulations.

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