Bernice (Bunny) Resnick Sandler (PhD) changed the course of women’s history in higher education. Called the “Godmother” of Title IX, Dr. Sandler detected the key to anti-discrimination legislation in education on reading Executive Order 11246 in the late 1960s. This order prohibited discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” in employment decisions involving federal contractors. Seeing this link between federal contractors and employment was, recalls Dr. Sandler, her “eureka” moment: educational institutions with federal contracts would have to comply with the anti-discrimination intent of this order. Dr. Sandler’s subsequent research led her to file hundreds of complaints under this order against institutions for discrimination against women in employment and educational opportunities. And, her testimony before the U. S. Congress based on these cases of gender discrimination was a signature effort in her long career of challenging discrimination against women in education. Her groundwork eventuated in Title IX. Appointed to chair the first federal Advisory Committee on Women’s Educational Equity in the 1970s, Dr. Sandler’s work on gender discrimination is well known, most especially her report (with Roberta M. Hall) The Classroom Climate: A Chilly One for Women. She has created and run numerous workshops to change the climate for women, build good mentoring relations in the academy, train people on sexual harassment in the workplace, and alter classroom dynamics for students. Avid bird watcher, music enthusiast and amateur musician, and passionate reader, writer, thinker and activist, Dr. Sandler’s work transformed the landscape of education and has been transformative for women in higher education.
Interviewed by Betty M. Bayer Edited by Bree von Bradsky