This fall Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills that could greatly improve the lives of women in California higher education, and serve as a model for the nation. Seeking to lessen the ambiguity that plagues sexual-assault investigations, the “yes means yes” law made California the first state to set a clear definition of when people agree to sex and attracted plenty of national attention.
Less heralded but equally important to academe was the second bill, also the first of its kind in the nation. It orders higher education to comply with Title IX’s regulations prohibiting discrimination against pregnant graduate students and offers protections beyond that, too. It will play a key role in helping female graduate students to achieve their professional goals.
Why did California have to pass a law to insist that academe comply with a 1972 federal law that already explicitly protected pregnant students from discrimination in such areas as admissions, hiring, and health insurance? Because almost no one in higher education recognized those protections—not even the students.
Some high schools had paid attention to Title IX because it had been used to ensure that pregnant students could finish their educations. But colleges and universities had paid scant attention until recently. Most people in academe believed that Title IX only covered athletes and, in just the past year, sexual assault on campus.
What does pregnancy discrimination against graduate students look like? <Read more.>