With Title IX on the forefront of everyone’s minds, experts such as Janet Judge are highly sought after. Judge, a higher education and employment law attorney and partner at Holland & Knight, has more than 30 years of experience in sports and civil rights law. She was a three-sport athlete at Harvard in soccer, basketball, and track and field, and went on to work in multiple roles within Harvard’s athletics administration. She then left athletic administration to attend law school and, while working toward her law degree, coached basketball and soccer at Simmons College.
A nationally recognized expert on Title IX and civil rights compliance, Judge has conducted workshops, including talks related to gender equity and Title IX, at more than 500 NCAA institutions, and one of those institutions was San Diego State. After her presentation to our student-athletes, coaches and the campus community at large, I spoke with Judge about her presentations and her role as a Title IX expert and Sports Law attorney.
What is the purpose of your Title IX presentations to universities?
“The purpose of this presentation is to celebrate the legacy of Title IX, to give clear guidance about what the law’s purpose, and to address many of the misunderstandings that continue to surround its implementation. I love to share some of the many entertaining stories that make up the history of Title IX, as well as my personal experiences living as a beneficiary of the law. I was a student-athlete before, during, and after the NCAA took over women’s sports. I also was fortunate to coach and serve as an athletics administrator, before moving on to law school and practicing Title IX law. I had the great fortune to clerk for the only judge to sit on both appellate panels of one of the most important Title IX cases. I’ve enjoyed my front row seat. I think I bring a unique perspective when speaking about Title IX.”
Do you notice a change in programs after your visits?
“I hope we move forward together but to be fair, my talks are just one component of each school’s overarching programming. I’m probably the one who is most changed. My law practice is focused on strategic planning, conduct, and leadership, and in addition, I give 50 to 70 workshops a year. Student-athletes always surprise and challenge me. It may be trite to say, but I learn as much or more from them than they do from me. I would find it difficult to practice sports law without the knowledge I gain from my direct student-athlete and coach interaction. I made a promise to myself early on that I would stay actively engaged with those competing and working in athletics or I would stop practicing. That’s why I continue to do this work. I take what I learn on campus and think about what athletic departments should be thinking about to move their programs forward in a proactive and thoughtful way.”
What are the biggest challenges facing athletic programs today?
“The challenges vary by division and by individual campus. Many programs are struggling to sponsor broad based programs with diminishing resources. Unfortunately, a minority of high profile programs account for the vast majority of news coverage, and while I know personally that there are so many great things happening at those schools, much of the coverage is focused on negative behaviors. Student-athletes are highly scheduled and continue to perform at a high level on and off the field. I worry that the negative stories have become the dominant narrative for those who are not intimately involved in college sports. I wish the general population could see the tremendous effort put in by the coaches, staff, and athletics administration at the vast majority of schools and conferences around the country to support their student-athletes’ development within the education framework. They are working long hours, day in and day out to educate our young people and I am so appreciative of the work that they do.”
What is the biggest challenge you face when talking to programs, and do you think your gender has an effect?
“There are lots of people talking these days. I often step back and think about whether I would want to hear what I am thinking about saying. I also have two college aged daughters who keep me honest. As they often remind me, it is important to stay up to date with current developments. I work hard to translate legal concepts through stories that hopefully are entertaining and show that I care about the subject and the people I’m trying to reach. I’ve been lucky in my work in that I love what I do. I feel fortunate to be invited to work with students and educators, especially where we are able to agree, discuss, challenge and learn from each other.”