Since 1970 women have made impressive strides toward equality on US university campuses, both as students and faculty. This progress stems largely from effective federal anti-discrimination laws, especially the Title IX provision of the Education Amendments of 1972.
The advances are broadly based. Admission quotas which restricted the number of women students in graduate schools have been abolished; as one result, women students in law schools rose from 12 percent to 39 percent between 1972 and 1980 .
Discrimination against women's sports and women athletes has greatly lessened. Professional honor societies, where many professional contacts are made, now admit women. So do prestigious honorary societies.
These advances came after broad interpretation of the laws by federal officials, under threat to end all federal aid if a college did not cease discrimination. Now the Reagan administration would interpret narrowly the Title IX provision, arguing the law does not apply to any university program unless it directly receives federal money. As most programs do not, the anti-discrimination laws thus could lose effectiveness.
This needs to be thought through carefully; the new interpretation might lead to substantial backsliding in the treatment of women on campuses.