Oct. 5, 2005
By Anita Martin
Title IX entered the restless university politics of the early 1970s through the back door. So discreet was its entry that few administrators seemed to notice the national mandate to equally include women in all federally funded educational programming. The "110 Marching Men" of Ohio University marched on, unawares.
Though no trumpets announced its arrival, the news did not escape all. Once the students began making noise, a university investigation into gender discrimination followed. As Sherlock Holmes once said, "We must look for consistency. Where there is want of it we must suspect."
NO GIRLS ALOUD
Beverly Jones is returning to Ohio University to speak about her work in preparing, submitting, defending and implementing the recommendations that she made in her seminal 1972 document, "A Report on the Status of Women at Ohio University."
When: Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m.
Where: Walter Hall Room 145
Beverly Jones, the lead investigator, had what every detective needs: the acuity to find holes in the story, and the good sense to find and replace the missing links. During her undergraduate years, 1964-68, Jones knew that some things didn't quite add up. For one thing, women, though held to the same academic requirements as men, were also subject to strict curfews and dress and behavior codes not imposed upon her male classmates.
By her senior year, Jones, BSJ '69, noted also a literary gap, and acted accordingly to fill it in.
"My proposed (senior) thesis was 'woman as existential being,'" Jones says. "It was my view that the experience of being a fully conscious person in the midst of the traditional social restrictions imposed on women can be an ultimate existential experience."
Jones named classic literary examples, but her thesis topic was flatly denied. Her advisor informed her that, according to Jean Paul Sartre's existential definition, women are not fully actualized beings.
Jones wrote it anyway.
"I didn't want to graduate if it required my acknowledging that I had no hope of becoming a complete human being," Jones says. That meant an incomplete for her degree, meaning she would finish her undergraduate career without a diploma.
One year later, Jones became the first woman to enroll in Ohio University's MBA program, at the urging of Business College Dean Harry Evarts. In doing so, she not only bridged the gap between women and business administration, but also solved a personal discrepancy.
"In June of '69, after I had agreed to enter the MBA program, my diploma mysteriously appeared in the mail. I assumed that (Evarts) or somebody intervened with the English department."
Had Jones bought into Sartre's philosophy, she may have believed, as Sartre had, that the reality of her nature was determined by the way others saw her – by the "convictions of others."
"My male classmates didn't hesitate to tell me that I was taking the spot that should belong to a man who would have to support a family," Jones says, "and the faculty wasn't much better."
On the air
This young Sherlock didn't let peer opinion slow her pursuit of social justice. "There is nothing more stimulating," Holmes once said, "than a case where everything goes against you."
Around the time of the 1970 university riots, Jones got a part-time job as a continuity writer for WOUB-TV and took her message on the air.
"That message was very simple," Jones says: "women should receive treatment equal to that of men – on the job, in the classroom and through government programs." True to form, wherever and whenever Jones' detected disparity, she pointed it out – even inside the university gates.
The broadcasts got the attention of University President Claude Sowle in 1972. Sowle, at the urging of his wife Katie, challenged Jones to write a report substantiating her claims that the university was systematically discriminating against women. He hired her away from WOUB and gave her an office in Cutler Hall. Ohio University's official gender investigation began.
"I suspected that he had made the assignment in part to shut me up," Jones says, "So I attempted to do the kind of job that he would find credible."
Just weeks later, Jones produced a 97-page report of her findings and recommendations. She addressed perceived employment inequalities from hiring practices to wages to promotions.
She outlined women's needs, such as childcare services for student mothers. She advocated a women's center and women's studies curricula. Then she dropped the bomb on extra curricula.
Under Title IX, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
Jones identified two inconsistencies, which came to symbolize what she refers to as the "change process" at the university.
"A coed university that touted its marching band as 'the 110 Marching Men' clearly wasn't providing equal opportunities for women," Jones says. The marching band had gone all-male in 1967.
Jones exposed athletics in a similar light.
"This year the total intercollegiate athletics budget was $1,061,000," Jones wrote in her 1972 report, "with all but $3,500 going to the men. No matter what the differences between the goals and practices of the two programs, it is discriminatory to give the men 30,000 percent of the women's budget."
Within two years, women rejoined the ranks of the Marching 110. The 1975 Alumni Journal printed the band leader's bold-print assurance: "Our standards will remain!" A few members left in protest. Controversy peaked and waned, rapidly.
"At first I thought the band would change dramatically and affect the spirit and common brotherhood, but it didn't," band member Steve Graham, '76, told the Alumni Journal. "We just accepted the girls."
As for women's athletics, the lady Bobcat budget rose from $3,500 to $12,000 in 1973, the year following Jones' report. By 1975, women's funds had again jumped to $20,500, despite general athletics cutbacks.
Although the fight for athletic equality continues today, Jones had won the first battle. In 1975, she finished her MBA and enrolled in Georgetown Law Center.
Jones recently took early retirement from her position as vice president of public affairs and policy of CNG, a Fortune 500 energy company. She now presides over ClearWays Consulting, LLC, a farmhouse retreat and consulting firm for Washington D.C. professionals. She still serves on the OU College of Communication Dean's Advisory Board.
Although an often bumpy and uphill climb, Beverly Jones began her professional passage at Ohio University. She took this spirit of change and social responsibility up the corporate ladder.
"What I learned at OU," she says, "is that you can bring about great change if you clearly picture where you want to go, and you commit to taking a few steps in that direction everyday. Now I enjoy working with professionals and businesses who are seeking transformation."
Anita Martin is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.