Celebrating Women's History Month: 50 Years of Title IX at Saint Mary’s

Athletics Celebrates National Girls & Women’s in Sports Day

On Feb. 3, the Saint Mary’s Athletics Department held a dinner get-together for our female student-athletes in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb. 2). After the dinner, attendees headed over to the women’s basketball game versus Santa Clara and received a T-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which was passed across the nation in 1972. The Title IX amendment was monumental in the fight for gender equality. It “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” as defined on the Saint Mary’s website. 

Deputy Athletic Director for Internal Operations and Senior Women’s Administrator Kami Gray ’02, MA ’06, took part in planning the celebration for our female student-athletes. As an alum of the school and the softball team, Gray has been at Saint Mary’s for a total of 21 years. “There’s a lot that has stayed the same, but seeing things progress here and what’s taken place between being a student-athlete myself to now, the facilities and everything that’s developed in general––it’s really exciting.” 

Title IX is a huge guiding principle for the Athletics Department. “I think it’s something that we have our staff evaluate all the time. They know they can always come to myself and the athletic director. We try to add questions to our end-of-year surveys that we do with our teams and also make sure our athletes know they can reach out to me. 

“I had such a great experience here,” Gray continued. “It’s something that I want all of our athletes to have, just the best experience as well.” 

On the budget side, Gray said, “Annually we have to submit info for our Equity in Athletics report. We also have the NCAA financial report. So when we do those, the athletic director and I sit down and look over them, and make sure we’re looking good in those areas.” 

On the policy of Title IX, Gray said, “It’s to hold people accountable. It’s to create that opportunity, not to take away opportunities for anyone but to re-create them for others. We need to continue to make sure we’re moving in that direction and always having the conversations.” 

Caitlin Luquet, the assistant athletic director for Internal Operations and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, alongside Staci Byrne ’05, MA ’07, who is the associate athletic director for Athletic Advancement, helped Gray with the dinner event. They are also co-chairs of Gaels for DEI, an initiative within Athletics that began last spring. “I’ve been trying to partner with other groups on campus to create events for student-athletes,” Luquet said. “We’re trying to provide more programming for them in that area. I think it’s really important.” 

Byrne also created a group for female faculty that meets every month. “It’s our [female] coaches and staff, for what I call a hang out. It has no structure, it’s just, ‘Let’s get to know each other so we can support each other better.’ We can kick around ideas. We asked, ‘How can we make female athletes more visible?’ We’re starting with the National Girls and Women in Sports Day and the basketball game. But what else can we do?” Byrne said. Of this women’s group, Luquet said, “It’s always about how we can improve things for our female student-athletes. I’m hoping in the next couple years our female student-athletes really start to feel that. Right now, it’s on the ground level, but that’s one of our goals.” 

Both Luquet and Byrne played sports in college. Like Gray, Byrne played here at Saint Mary’s. Looking at the past 50 years of Title IX, Byrne said, “Even playing 20 years ago is different from playing now. Fifty years ago, same thing—it’s very different. Now, more women are joining organizations as coaches, on the administrative side. That’s huge. That’s us evolving. It’s exciting to see where it continues to go.” 

Luquet brought up the personal side of her work and the precedent of Title IX itself for her. She spoke about how Title IX kickstarted a culture shift, and though it takes many years for positive change to stick, many changes can be attributed back to its passing in 1972. “I’ve been coached by females almost all my life. I was very lucky. I was coached by females my entire career except college softball, and I think that is attributed to Title IX as well. Being able to pass that on and highlight Title IX, especially in our initiatives with DEI––how important it is and where we’ve come from,” she said. 

Molly Dreher ’24, a second year Psychology major and a member of the women’s cross country and track team, said, “To me, Title IX is not just simply gender equity. It’s an investment in bettering education. It’s a promise to the youth that they will have opportunities.” Dreher works for lasting change both on campus and for athletes around the country at an organization called Voice in Sport, an online platform that advocates for equity in sport. There, Dreher has been involved in writing new legislation for Title IX. “Our next big step is finalizing our partnership in the senate, which brings us even closer to success,” she said.

While it may be most known in athletic programs on college campuses, Title IX is vitally important across all departments and to all students. Anthony Garrison-Engbrecht came to Saint Mary’s in August as the vice president of Student Life and the Title IX Coordinator. As the coordinator, he deals with concerns and complaints of sex discrimination and harassment on campus. “I try to make sure the campus not only maintains compliance to updated law but also to educate our community on those laws. Policy is very complex. I work toward creating, ideally, a positive, safe, and healthy learning environment. And that inherently promotes inclusion as well,” he said. 

Lauren Kearney ’23, a third year Women’s and Gender Studies major, works in the Office of Community Life as the Title IX and Community Life intern. As a member of the women’s cross country and track team, she is also involved in creating and organizing presentations to better educate our sports teams on Title IX policy. “I think that our work specifically with getting out and giving presentations has actually done a lot,” Kearney said. “We saw improvement in the reporting process. People were reporting, and even if they didn’t want to move forward with formal allegations, they felt like they could use the resources, which was a huge shift because in previous years, we haven’t seen that.”

Other than furthering education, Garrison-Engbrecht looks forward to the reinstatement of the President’s Title IX Advisory Board, which will bring more campus and community involvement to the policy on our own campus. Looking ahead at the next few decades of improvements, he said, “As we continue to grow and evolve, so should our policies, and being responsive to current community need. So, it’s exciting to be part of this process and think about how we can continue to educate and be stewards of the policy. Every year, we [Saint Mary’s] review our policies and our procedures to make sure they’re not only in alignment with federal policies but that they’re person-centric. That everyone has appropriate care. Everyone has a resource. It’s really important. We have national policies that are really the floor, when we should be working toward the ceiling.”

Learn more about the Title IX office here