Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Title IX decision

This week, recent voices reflect on the impact of Title IX following the 40th anniversary of this landmark decision. Here are some interviews, opinions, and articles on the effects of ending sex discrimination on federally funded education programs.

Nation Public Radio’s Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition, talked to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, co-editor of  Equal Play (Temple University Press) about the impact of the law that opened competitive sports to millions of American girls and women.

 Listen to the interview here:


The Chronicle of Higher Education published two pieces this month on Title IX.

Title IX at 40: Have Colleges Done Enough?

 By Welch Suggs

Sometime in 2002, while working as a reporter, I was on the phone with an athletics director talking about Title IX. He asked to go off the record—and proceeded to vent.

He understood Title IX, the 1972 amendment to the Higher Education Act that forbade sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds. He got it. But what could institutions do if there simply weren’t enough women interested in playing sports at the college level? His daughters had played sports happily as elementary-school students, but after they turned 12, their and their friends’ interests turned elsewhere. What more should he do?

To read more of this article, visit

40 Years of Title IX: Leadership Matters for Women in Academe

By Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh

Forty years ago this month, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law, requiring an end to gender discrimination in admissions at educational institutions that receive federal money. Since then, progress in attaining gender equity for women has been heartening, but there is still considerable work to be done, particularly in the areas of faculty and leadership.

In the 1980s—in little more than the blink of an eye—women surpassed men in admissions on most college campuses. And now, unlike their parents and grandparents, these women are increasingly likely to be taught by women. This is good news, and we have Title IX to thank.

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The Nation published this piece last week:

Don’t Like Sports? Three Other Reasons to Be a Fan of Title IX

By Bryce Covert

This Saturday marked the fortieth anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. To say I’m not sporty may be an understatement. True story: I fulfilled my high school team sport requirement with a short-lived stint on the bowling team, during which I devoted more attention to my calculus homework than to perfecting my strikes and spares. I am about as likely to hit a baseball as to hit the lotto jackpot. I am far from a poster child for the common perception of a Title IX beneficiary: one of the girls who entered school sports in droves. The number of girls participating in sports in elementary and secondary schools rose from 295,000 the year Title IX was enacted to 3.2 million in the last school year.

But there’s a lot more to love about the law than the paths it cleared for women of the sporty persuasion. If you’re like me and not a fan of what Mitt Romney and I call “sport,” here are some other great reasons to be on board—and push for enforcement of the law to go even further:

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Attachment parenting and determining what makes a good mommy

Chris Bobel, author of The Paradox of Natural Mothering penned an op-ed piece for the Christian Science Monitor about attachment parenting. 

Time magazine’s controversial cover from a couple weeks ago, which depicted young mother Jamie Lynne Grumet while her 3-year-old son stood on a stool suckling at her breast, was yet another unhelpful salvo in the “mommy wars.”

Ms. Grumet’s contrived pose seemed to throw down the gauntlet to moms everywhere: “Who’s the better mother?” And media outlets have been picking up the debate ever since.

The ongoing firestorm surrounding Time’s cover reveals how limiting and degrading Western society’s story of the “good mother” or “perfect mom” really is. It’s a narrative steeped in misogynistic assumptions about womanhood – at once self-sacrificing and inevitably deficient.

Mothers are measured against an impossible standard because they are women. Fathers, as men, are held to a markedly lesser set of expectations. It is, therefore, much easier to earn props for being a good Daddy than a good Mommy.

The Time story was about attachment parenting, a practice in which parents keep their kids close through co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand, and “baby wearing.” Many attachment mothers breastfeed their children until age two, three, or four.

Thanks to Time’s art department, the magazine made extended breastfeeding, and by extension, attachment parenting, look like something freaky. The reality, however, is that this practice is ancient and global and works beautifully for many families.

I confess that when I conducted research on moms like Grumet for a book on natural mothering, I began with some skepticism. I was only a quasi-attachment mom myself, and ambivalent about combining this “old world” parenting with my very “new world” career.

Didn’t these moms get sick of their kids? Were their family lives really more harmonious than those of parents who took a more mainstream approach? Was it worth it?

But as I listened to moms tell me why they chose and maintained this particular approach to child rearing, I grew to respect them. They were smart, resourceful, and incredibly self-reflective women, and their parenting choices made sense for them.

However, I also came to realize that attachment parenting was easier for moms who enjoy some measure of financial privilege and “cultural capital,” the non-monetary but potent assets that enable social mobility. In other words, attachment parenting was facilitated by those who had access to resources, such as job flexibility or a social safety net – things most women don’t have.

This realization forced me to think beyond the natural moms and consider the struggle mothering entails for far too many women in American society. The truth is, all mothers are under the microscope all the time, and we are trained to see them through the exacting lenses of gender, race, class, sexuality, nation and religion.

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Academia now operates more like a corporation than an ivory tower.

Losing Our Faculties

The Fall of The Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and why it Matters. Benjamin Ginsberg. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor, and the Professional Turn. Randy Martin. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

The Production of Living Knowledge: The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America. Gigi Roggero (trans. Enda Brophy). Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Reviewed by James M. Saslow

It’s hardly news that academia is in perpetual crisis, but to judge from a spate of recent books, we’ve reached a tipping point. The latest books on the state of higher education evoke both sadness and anger, particularly for a gray-bearded baby boomer with enough historical perspective to remember when everyone respectfully called my boyhood friend’s father, a professor at a tiny local liberal arts school, Doctor Rockwood. When I went off to an ivy-covered Gothic Revival campus, the stained-glass windows glowed with the quasi-sacred dignity of the life of the mind, and the soaring arches seemed the portal to a fulfilling life of thoughtful and cosmopolitan citizenship.

As that quaint vision recedes, critics of higher education fall into two camps: those who believe that the university has shortchanged society and those who think that society has shortchanged the university. The books surveyed here align with the latter faction. Their common core is an urgent wake-up call to the subversion and usurpation of faculty power and autonomy. While acknowledging that our syndrome has many symptoms, most focus on one cluster: the professoriate’s progressive loss of authority over curriculum, hiring, tenure, and promotion; over institutional purpose; and over our own working conditions. The authors range in tone from impassioned political analysis (Randy Martin) to ironic bemusement (Benjamin Ginsberg). Ginsberg provides frequent anecdotes from his own experience, while Gigi Roggero eschews examples for a jargon-heavy and historiographic but blistering sociological critique. All concur that academia, once widely treasured for its perch above worldly pressures, now operates more like a corporation than an ivory tower.

These diagnosticians probe three sore points: power, ideas, and money. First is the mushrooming of powerful administrators and their creeping takeover of the higher education agenda. This is Ginsberg’s strong suit: The Fall of the Faculty brims with absurdist cynicism over managerial bloat that has come at the expense of actual teaching. He labels these newly created administrators “deanlets”: professional managers who often do not come from an academic background and thus favor public relations over pedagogy.

In the region of ideas, according to Ginsberg, what hurts are the sweeping changes in curriculum and teaching, mainly toward vocational courses and instructional technology, initiated by those deanlets in response to outside pressures. The debate is between education and training: is college an apprenticeship for informed public participation or a store selling competitive private credentials? The pain lies not only in the changes themselves—which reflect a major shift in public perception of education—but in the fact that it is no longer educators who decide what students should know, as opposed to what the business model wants them to know (or not know).

As for money matters, business forces are restructuring the college workplace, aiming to turn the ivory tower into a factory. Salaries stagnate even as demands increase for accountability, spawning time-consuming forms and reports and the dreaded insistence on “outcomes assessment.” And that’s for those with a “real” job. The drastic reduction in tenured positions has reached the point where, at my school, more than half of all classes are taught by adjuncts.

What needs to be understood, if any headway is to be made in countering these trends, is that this infection in the US academy is but one outbreak of a broader epidemic: the penetration of American society by the values and methods of the increasingly global, late-capitalist social-economic order. Roggero’s analysis of mounting inequality in labor relations uncovers similar processes in Europe and Israel. Wherever they look, these authors find the same problems, and they use common terms for understanding this brave new world:

  • Privatization: The transfer of universally accessible public services into the realm of private enterprise for profit, largely through cuts in government budgets.
  • Corporatization: The increasing tendency to define every enterprise as if it were a profit-making corporation competing for a market of consumers. Hence colleges, like beer or baseball, strive for brand recognition, bragging rights, and customer satisfaction.
  • Managerialism: The mode of organization intended to maximize productivity in all sectors of an enterprise by coordinated oversight and evaluation based on unquestioning faith in quantifiable “outcomes.” In the interest of efficient control, governing structures are hierarchical, bureaucratized, and secretive.
  • Deprofessionalization: A new attitude toward specialized knowledge, which aims to discredit or eliminate all independent expertise and subject it to management-generated criteria. Insurance companies now overrule doctors; deanlets ignore faculty recommendations.
  • Contingent labor: The result of the transformation of jobs that once promised full long-term employment into part-time positions adjustable to changing demand. Martin calls this process “casualization,” underscoring “the minimal commitment of institution to employee.”
  • Precaritization: The deliberate creation of permanent insecurity and anxiety among workers by cutting jobs and reducing salaries along with health care, pensions, and other benefits. See also: proletarianization, Dickensian, social pathology.

This new regime is repugnant to academics not only for self-interested economic reasons but also viscerally, because it blasphemes the values and practices of the university, traditionally conceived as a service to the common good. Deconstructing the battles over workplace culture reveals profoundly different goals, philosophies, and worldviews. Just ask yourself which side you favor in James Truslow Adams’s venerable adage, “There are two types of education: one teaches you how to make a living, the other teaches you how to live.”

That difference is between two models of human interaction and power relations—the corporate and the cooperative—which embody mutually hostile conceptions of human nature and potential. The hierarchical, mechanistic managers mistrust every individual as fallen, lazy, and selfish; they seek power over the anarchic masses. In contrast, the idea of a college—a term, like colleague and collegial, rooted in “bound together” for common purpose—is collective and communitarian. It is grounded in the belief that people are basically good and should be given power to bring out—“e-duce”—their unique potentials, thus maximizing the shared welfare of all. In this guild paradigm, one is a long-term, active member, not an alienated part-timer, and a faculty, whose integrity is safeguarded by our commitment as an honorable “profession” (a religious term) to maintaining public trust, is granted autonomy and influence based on its specialized expertise.

Most academics I know have some sense of that “vocation,” of being called to a higher purpose. We wear the same robes as our clerical forebears when celebrating our secular priesthood of knowledge and reason. But for preaching that education is for public citizenship, not private productivity, we are now besieged by an inquisition-cum–hostile takeover. The managerial strategy is to surround and blockade, cutting off all aid and supplies to propel surrender in the face of starvation. For the ivory tower, that means choking off public funds, stripping us of the robes of authority, and undermining public sympathy for the professoriate, represented as a bunch of expensive, meddlesome, and unaccountable slackers.

Examinations of academia are often long on diagnosis and short on treatment. What do these researchers prescribe? Ginsberg is pessimistic about the future; both he and Martin seek to balance adjustments that both faculty and administration might reasonably make. All three offer a limited menu of suggestions, which probably have mixed chances of success. Mary Burgan, in her 2006 book What Ever Happened to the Faculty, usefully introduced two principal arenas of action—college governance institutions and labor unions—and all of the authors under consideration here take professors to task for their disengagement from faculty senates, committees, and other sites that offer at least some platform for both meaningful cooperation and resistance. They’re right. Most of us avoid such service—and not only because we know that despite lip service to “community,” it won’t get you tenure. Many are bitterly frustrated to discover that their local managerial juggernaut is already unstoppable. I once chaired a task force to investigate whether faculty were unduly pressured into, and inequitably rewarded for, prestige research—even as our president was planning to ratchet up those demands. In our campus survey, most felt teaching and service deserved greater weight, and I duly reported the junior faculty’s message that, if quotas increased, they would seek work elsewhere. Madame President’s blunt reply: “Let them try. There’s nowhere else to go.” Such snarling realpolitik is engendering a rise in union activism: if they are going to treat us like labor, we need to respond like labor.

Most of the proposals offered by these authors are well intentioned but small bore. We can’t solve the structural problems of higher education within the gates of our own quad; our only hope is to change priorities in society at large, ultimately a political task. Faculty unions have already marched with labor coalitions to demand our shared goal of economic justice, as my City University of New York group did recently. But educators also face a more abstract lobbying challenge unique to our job description. Martha C. Nussbaum’s eloquent defense of traditional liberal arts in Not for Profit argues (in the publisher’s pithy blurb) that “we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.” Amen—but how do we “broadcast our pitch” past the corporate-sponsored and radically segmented mass media? How can we convince our students, legislators—indeed, anyone who will listen—that knowledge is not a product, college is not an assembly line, and students are not just future worker bees? For what is at stake in the current academic wars is, quite starkly, the nature of our still nominally democratic society.

It is clear from these books that, if the present disease metastasizes, our national prognosis is cancerous inequality of education, wealth, political agency, and overall opportunity, squeezing the mass of citizens closer to the desperate misery that drove a Tunisian fruit vendor to set off last year’s Arab Spring by immolating himself. Our society is increasingly sacrificing the long-term future of all, disinvesting in sources of public well-being like education while enabling huge short-term profits for a few. Perhaps this backward step is feeding the current pop-culture fascination with the vampire: an unfeeling aggressor who sucks the lifeblood out of others so it can feast forever. There’s a name for such societies: “banana republic.” A good working definition, adapted from the one offered by the late social critic Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair, is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, reinforced by collusion between the state and favored corporations, through which the profits from private exploitation of public resources remain private property and the debts incurred become public responsibility. Because of corporate manipulation, the government is unaccountable to its citizens, and the legislature is for sale and functions mostly as a ceremonial rubber-stamp.

Sound familiar? That’s why so many people occupied Wall Street (and beyond) last fall, trying to broadcast the pitch that the corporate-technocratic 1 percent are stealthily entrenching a system in which no one will be able to challenge their greedy domination. They have already driven America’s universities, once a magnet for students from around the world, down the path toward becoming underfunded, micromanaged trade schools that fewer and fewer can afford. Soon the 99 percent won’t have any education in the full sense, not to mention a secure job or social safety net, that might enable them to look up from the struggle for survival and survey the causes of their plight. How ironic that, in a nation whose political rhetoric and institutions are unusually religious, the elite should be so contemptuous of Judeo-Christian ideals of equality, charity, and brotherly love. There are no Good Samaritans on Wall Street. Unchecked, they will transmute faculty into “human capital,” students from citizens into robots and consumers—all sucked dry, by ceaseless worry and crisis, of the energy for social activism. Anyone else remember the chilling line from Star Trek, intoned by the bionic Borg invaders? “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

While writing this, I turned sixty-four, which summoned to mind the old Beatles song: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” Four decades ago, I eagerly donned the pipe-and-tweed habit of what was then a respected confraternity, but the new abbots of that monastery, rebranded as a McJob-training center, don’t need or want us outdated veterans. As for feeding, my oft-frozen salary keeps shrinking with inflation, and impoverished younger coworkers (no longer “colleagues,” being adjuncts) have no place else to go.

Though sixty-four isn’t so old today, I yearn to retire as soon as my precarious 401(k) may permit. I can’t bear any longer my front-row seat at the relentless boxing match between the corporate deanlets and us dwindling holdouts. They haven’t yet scored a final knockout, but we’ve been up against the ropes for years, continually punch-drunk from the latest dictatorial, wrong-headed, or merely superfluous “innovation” that management keeps jabbing at faculty. I used to be an honored professional, with valued expertise and integrity certified by peers. Now educators, like everyone else, are being beaten down to lazy unreliables who must be monitored and kept hungry and ignorant of everything outside our assigned task. I only hope we still have strength enough to fight off these pandemic assaults.

James M. Saslow is professor of art history, theater, and Renaissance studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has lectured and published widely on sexuality and gender in Renaissance culture and is the author of four books, including Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality and the Visual Arts. His e-mail address is

Reprinted with permission from the May-June 2012 issue of Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors.

Remembering Tiananmen Square and its impact on both personal and political levels on the anniversary of the protests

In this blog entry, Belinda Kong, reflects back on the 1989 massacre and how it inspired her  new book, Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square.

In many ways, I am an unlikely person to have written a book on Tiananmen fictions.  In 1989, I was a thirteen-year-old kid living in Miami, having moved to the States from Hong Kong just three and a half years earlier.  When the Tiananmen demonstrations erupted that spring, I hardly paid any attention; those students in Beijing seemed so remote to me.  I am sure many people have much more vivid memories of watching the protests on TV that spring than I do. 

My own memory is of hearing the news of the massacre the morning after—it would have been June 4th too on this side of the Pacific—from the son of the owner of the Chinese restaurant where my father was working at the time.  I remember being surprised and confused, by the news itself as much as the sight of this Chinese American college student getting incredibly upset.  I remember feeling how unreal it all seemed, the idea that a whole generation of Chinese students could imagine they possessed the power to change their country’s course, camping out for weeks on end in the nation’s most public political space, successfully mobilizing a million citizens to march in the streets in their support, and even facing down government troops and army tanks.  All this seemed to me like a drama unfolding on another planet.

Then, about a dozen years ago, I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, working on my dissertation on Chinese diaspora literature.  This would become the genesis of my book, Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Squarethough at the time, it was not focused on Tiananmen, and it could hardly be called even a rough draft of the eventual product.  Instead, I was thinking about Chinese identity more generally, about how many Chinese writers in the West could be seen as sharing overlapping concerns about “Chineseness,” whether they had been born and raised in China and went abroad as adults or been born in America and knew only English.  I was trying to bring together some of the most globally visible Chinese writers known to me at the time under a very broad rubric of “writing Chineseness,” regardless of their biographical trajectory or cultural education. 

In many ways, the dissertation was too abstract and did not explain why I discussed some authors, such as Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan in relation to Ha Jin and Gao Xingjian, but not others.  Meanwhile, without conscious design, I kept getting pulled by the literature on Tiananmen, and it took me several years to realize that these were the works that most clarified my thinking about Chineseness.  Almost by accident, I started to clue in that Tiananmen was one pivotal and defining point for both Chinese and diasporic identity in our time, that I had grown up in the wake of its ripple effects, and that many of the writers I was reading were themselves living out the extended legacy of the movement and the massacre.  It took five years or so for this realization to dawn on me, and another five years for me to reframe my book and coalesce it around Tiananmen fictions.

The insight I ultimately arrived at is that Tiananmen was not just a political event but something that has significantly shaped Chinese literature and cultural identity in the post-1989 world.  When we think of Tiananmen, we usually think history, and above all, we think politics—the politics of mass opposition, of calls for democracy vs. totalitarian state power, etc.  Certainly, with Arab spring, this political understanding of Tiananmen resonates with particular force today.  But what is less recognized is that Tiananmen has had a tremendously powerful, productive, and longterm effect on Chinese literature and cultural identity.  And precisely because the topic remains censored to this day in the PRC, precisely because only those abroad could write about it openly and publicly and without evasion, Tiananmen has come to serve as a key point of self-definition for writers in the diaspora.  Tiananmen is a topic that more and more Chinese authors, especially in the West, have come to address in their writing; it is an event that writers continually imagine and reimagine and thereby keep alive and relevant for our contemporary moment, and also a subject that unifies as well as fractures writers.  Above all, Tiananmen has politicized the Chinese literary diaspora: after the massacre, writers show a much stronger tendency to write political fictions that critique either the PRC regime itself or authoritarian uses of state power more generally.  And most strikingly, these fictions on Tiananmen do not remain static but evolve alongside global concerns, as though Tiananmen already anticipates the theoretical vocabularies with which we continually try to make sense of globalization and global life.

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