“Dear Colleagues: Title IX Exhibition” displayed in Simpson Library3 min read
by KATY ROSE PRICE
From March 6 to April 28, Simpson Library is displaying historical items and information to recognize Women’s History Month and the recent 50-year anniversary of the 1972 Title IX Education Amendment. The charge for the exhibition was led by the Director of the Center for Prevention and Education Marissa Miller and sponsored by UMW Athletics, the Office of Title IX and ADA Compliance and Simpson Library.
“When we think about 50 years, the stuff that made the news highly focused on athletics,” said Miller. “I don’t think people know that the law wasn’t created for that. But it ended up changing sports for women and girls across the country—it made some major strides.”
Walking through the double doors into the library, students are met with an array of multicolored images and objects, stacks of “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller, a timeline documenting Title IX’s history and a hand-constructed “50,” made up of a collage of UMW’s memorable achievements related to gender equality. There are also two pieces in the exhibit commissioned by a local artist, Isla Berge McFadden.
The exhibition also includes information regarding Sexual Assault Awareness Month, occurring in April, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, occurring in October. One side of the exhibit is focused on the history of Title IX, Miller said, and the other side is focused on activism and campaigns.
On the activism side of the exhibit, there’s a microphone to represent Take Back the Night demonstrations. During Take Back the Night, “individuals usually speak out about their experiences and encouraging folks to shatter the silence and kind of break the cycle and come forward and start your healing process in a way,” said Miller. “That’s my favorite side in terms of having it represent the different things that acknowledge our space.”
Given time and staffing constraints on the specific anniversary of Title IX, an exhibition wasn’t possible last year. However, the Center for Prevention and Education still wanted to fully celebrate the monumental anniversary before it was technically over, as the official 50th anniversary was June 23, 2022.
“I’ve only heard positive responses,” Trish Greene, head of access services and outreach at Simpson Library, said of the display. “I have seen people looking at the cases and all the stuff in there. One thing I liked about it is there’s lots of different objects to look at and lots of different stories and information.”
For Miller, the 2011 Dear Colleagues letter, which imposed new mandates for how schools adjudicate sexual misconduct, stands out the most.
“The biggest thing coming from the 2011 Dear Colleague letter is that every school needs to have a Title IX coordinator,” said Miller. “The reason why that stands out the most is because, for me, that is really what put all campuses on the map.”
This exhibition is larger than many other exhibitions that have been displayed in Simpson Library.
“It’s definitely the most full display we’ve had,” said Justin Mundie, a senior computer science major and employee at Simpson Library. “I think it definitely brought more attention to it and it’s really informative. I think it would definitely be cool to continue getting more involved exhibitions here.”
The Title IX exhibition highlights the significant progress that has been made in providing equal access to employment and educational opportunities, while also pointing out the improvements and work that remains, requiring continued awareness, advocacy and education.
But beyond Title IX, the exhibit speaks to UMW’s legacy as a whole.
“A lot of Mary Washington’s mission connects to really thinking about how we can make worldwide change,” said Miller. “When I think about bystander intervention, and when I teach that, it goes beyond just campus. So if we’re seeing something that we’re concerned about, it should have an effect on the greater Fredericksburg or wherever you may go, because you take our honor code with you, you take our code of conduct with you, you take our values with you. Just because you’re not on campus doesn’t mean you can’t act.”