Bernice Sandler

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Bernice Sandler
Sandler, in June 1944
Bernice Resnick

(1928-03-03)March 3, 1928
DiedJanuary 5, 2019(2019-01-05) (aged 90)
EducationBrooklyn College (BS)
City College of New York(MS)
University of Maryland (EdD)
Known for
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jerrold Sandler

Bernice Resnick Sandler (March 3, 1928 – January 5, 2019)[1] was an American women's rights activist born in New York.[2][3][4] Sandler is best known for being instrumental in the creation of Title IX, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, in conjunction with Representatives Edith Green (D-OR) and Patsy Mink (D-HI) and Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) in the 1970s.[5][6][7][8] She has been called "the Godmother of Title IX" by The New York Times.[9]

Sandler wrote extensively about sexual and peer harassment towards women on campus, coining the terms "gang rape" and "the chilly campus climate".[9][2]

She received numerous awards and honors for her work on women's rights and was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2010, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2013.[10][5] Some of her papers are currently held in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.[11]

Early and personal life[edit]

Bernice Resnick was born to Abraham Hyman and Ivy (Ernst) Resnick on March 3, 1928, in New York City.[4] The second daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Germany, Sandler spent her childhood living in Brooklyn, New York.[3] She was intended to be named Beryl by her parents, but a doctor's error led to Bernice being written on her birth certificate instead. The nickname "Bunny" is derived from a Yiddish translation of Bernice, Bunya.[3]

In 1952, Resnick married Jerrold Sandler and had two children with him, Deborah Jo in 1954 and Emily Maud in 1956.[4][3][11] The two later divorced, in 1978.[11]


After Sandler graduated from Erasmus Hall High School, she attended Brooklyn College where she graduated cum laude with a B.S. in psychology 1948.[12][4] Sandler also happened to attend "the city’s first public coeducational liberal arts college."[13] At the time of its founding in 1930 Brooklyn College "was envisioned as a stepping stone for the sons and daughters of immigrants and working-class people toward a better life through a superb—and at the time, free—college education."[13]

Furthering her education, she enrolled in the Master's program at the City College of New York. Historically, City College had been seen as "the poor man's Harvard" and had only recently begun admitting women into its graduate programs.[14] Sandler received her Master's of Clinical and School Psychology in 1950.[4] In 1951 the entire institution became coeducational."[14]

In 1969, Sandler received her Ed.D. from the University of Maryland in Counseling and Personnel Services.[2]

As of 2013, Sandler was also the recipient of over a dozen honorary doctorates for her work on women's issues.[15]


Prior to finishing her Ed.D., Bunny Sandler worked a series of odd jobs as a research assistant, nursery school teacher, a guitar instructor, and as a secretary as a result of moving repeatedly with her husband.[16][11]

Following her unsuccessful attempts at applying to tenure-track positions at higher education institutions, Sandler joined the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) as the Chair of the Action Committee for Federal Contract Compliance from 1969–1971.[17] The Women's Equity Action League, was an organization active from 1968–1989, was primarily focused on utilizing legal action and lobbying to enhance the status of women across the country.[18] The now defunct organization is best known for its work overseeing the implementation of, "the contract compliance executive order as it applied to sex discrimination."[19]

In between her time as Chair of the Action Committee at WEAL she was also hired as an Education Specialist for the Special Subcommittee on Education, Committee on Education and Labor for the U.S. House of Representatives.[5] It was during her time on the Special Subcommittee on Education that Sandler helped to support hearings that had a direct focus on gender discrimination within education and employment matters.[5][2]

In 1971, Sandler became the Deputy Director of the Women's Action Program within the Department of Health’s Education and Welfare section.[2] While at the Department of Health, Sandler worked on sex discrimination in education issues.[2]

After a brief stint in the federal government, Sandler helped found the Project on the Status and Education of Women (PSEW) in 1971. The Project on the Status and Education of Women was an organization that focused on gender equality issues within the education system.[20] While serving as Director and later Executive Associate with the PSEW, Sandler was instrumental in shaping the organization's direction during her time there from 1971 through 1991.[2][21]

During her time at the Project on the Status and Education of Women, Sandler also served in various capacities on the National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs. She was appointed to the Council by both Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Sandler served on the Council from 1975 through 1982 and was Council Chair during her initial appointment from 1975–1977.[5]

In 1977, Sandler became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[22] WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.

Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Sandler continued to serve as an expert witness in both discrimination and sexual harassment cases.[2]

From 1991–1994, Sandler was a Senior Associate at the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The Center for Women Policy is a non-profit organization that focuses on a diverse range of issues affecting women, currently, the group is focused on addiction issues and recovery efforts.[23]

Sandler was a senior fellow at the Women's Research & Education Institute where she focused on sexual harassment, the chilly classroom climate, and women's issues on campus.[15] The Women's Research & Education Institute, founded in 1977, is a nonpartisan, non-profit, independent organization that works to, "identify issues affecting women in their roles in the family, workplace and public arena and to inform and help shape public policy."[24]

Activism and role in Title IX[edit]

Immediately following the completion of her Ed.D. from the University of Maryland, Sandler applied to a variety of teaching positions that she was qualified for, but was continually turned down for a variety of reasons. In one interview she was told, "she came on too strong for a woman."[25] As a self-proclaimed, "believer in bibliotherapy,"[17] Bunny Sandler turned to reading to help come to terms with her employment situation.

While reading a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, she discovered an executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discrimination on a variety of factors that was recently amended to include sex discrimination.[25] In 1965, President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which was originally focused on, "equal employment opportunity in Government employment, employment by Federal contractors and subcontractors and employment under Federally assisted construction contracts regardless of race, creed, color or national origin."[26][27] In 1967, President Johnson, amended Executive Order 11246 through Executive Order 11375 which specifically added sex discrimination as a category protected by the previous Executive Order.[28] This minor amendment by President Johnson, paved the way forward for Sandler, providing her with the legal footing necessary to bring legal complaints against non-compliant higher education institutions.

Through this discovery, Sandler worked with the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance at the Department of Labor, Vincent Macaluso, and through her position with the Women's Equity Action League, she began to file class-action lawsuits against colleges and universities nationwide.[17]

Although the barrage of over 250 lawsuits against higher education institutions was successful in generating attention toward the issue, it did little to generate significant federal enforcement on the issues at hand. Prior to the lawsuits, the federal office in charge of overseeing enforcement of the executive order, the Office for Civil Rights under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, had been slow to implement an enforcement program and had generally failed to provide adequate protection for those affected.[19]

Concurrently during her nationwide legal campaign, Sandler continued to press women in academia to write their congressional representatives to increase awareness and exposure on the issue of sex discrimination in education that were directed at the Secretary of Labor.[25]

Simultaneously, Representative Edith Green (D-OR) and Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), both members of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, were attempting to address the lack of legal coverage that was focused on sex discrimination within the education field. Using the data compiled by the Women's Equity Action League, Sandler was able to provide Rep. Green and Rep. Mink with the material they needed to hold hearings on gender discrimination in education and to draft potential legislation addressing the issue.[25][7][6] The hearings held in June 1970 by the Committee were successful in generating a wealth of materials to be used in supporting an effort to end gender discrimination in higher education.[19]

Testimony during the hearing highlighted multiple perspectives brought forth by women within higher education who were discriminated against and had little assistance from the Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.[19]

On the Senate side, Senator Birch Bayh, (D-IN), a staunch advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, sponsored the legislation and worked to ensure its passage following the instrumental work done by Rep. Green, Rep. Mink, and Sandler.[8]

With the legislation passing with little notice by the media and educational institutions, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was passed by the 92nd Congress and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. It had a dramatic effect on the higher education field to include a significant effect on collegiate athletics.[25][19]

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, "as a means of correcting sex discrimination at the college and university level." In addition to ending sex discrimination in education, the act also extends to athletics, sexual harassment and employment discrimination.[29] Title IX has had a significant impact on female collegiate athletics throughout its 46-year history, dramatically increasing the number of women in college athletics, increasing minority representation and increasing overall equity and diversity within the NCAA.[30]

For her significant work on formulating and then executing a plan to address gender discrimination within higher education, Sandler has been described by many as, "the Godmother of Title IX."[2][9][31]

After the passage of the landmark legislation, Sandler has continued to address women's rights issues nationwide. Her work on women's rights issues have led to many 'firsts' in the field that continue to affect women nationwide.[32][10][33]

Furthermore, during her time as Director of the Program on the Status and Education of Women, Sandler led the creation of a monthly newsletter, On Campus with Women, to provide higher education administrators with the information needed to better understand the developments affecting women within higher education.[34]

In 1982, co-authoring a report with Roberta M. Hall, the two first created the term chilly climate, which they defined as "an environment that dampens women's self-esteem, confidence, aspirations and their participation."[35]

Sandler also maintains a long list of 'firsts' within the field. A sample of her many 'firsts' include, "the first individual to write the first federal policy report on sex discrimination in education, the first paper about barriers faced by women of color and from other special population groups, the first report on campus gang rape and the first report on peer harassment."[2][10]

In film and television[edit]

Sandler and her role in implementing Title IX is highlighted in the documentary film Rise of the Wahine (2014), directed by Dean Kaneshiro.[36][37] Rise of the Wahine highlights the individuals from Hawaii who were influential in changing women's collegiate athletic opportunities.[36][38] Her work is also promoted in the 2015 documentary, An Unexpected Win: Title IX and the Pinckney Pirates, a documentary about the effect of Title IX in a Midwest town.

Sandler has also appeared on the TV series, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, on an episode about Title IX.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Athena Award, Intercollegiate Association of Women Students, 1974[4]
  • Boyer Award, Women's Equity Action League, 1976[4]
  • National Leadership Award, Institute for Educational Leadership, 1979[4]
  • co-Winner Rockefeller Public Service Award, Princeton University, 1976[4]
  • Anna Roe Award, Harvard University, 1988[2]
  • Georgina Smith Award[2]
  • American Association of University Professors 1991[2]
  • Woman of Distinction Award, National Association for Women in Education 1991[2]
  • Woman of Achievement, Turner Broadcasting System, 1994[2]
  • Leadership Matters Award, Institute for Educational Leadership, 1997[2]
  • Foremothers Lifetime Achievement Award, National Center for Health Research, 2007[39]
  • American Psychological Association Presidential Citation, 2012[40]
  • National Women's Hall of Fame, Inductee, 2013[41]


  • Sandler, Bernice R., Lisa A. Silverberg and Roberta M. Hall, The Chilly Classroom Climate:  A Guide to Improve the Education of Women, Washington, DC: National Association for Women in Education, 1996.[42]
  • Co-editor, with Robert J. Shoop, Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Guide for Administrators, Faculty and Students. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.[43]
  • Educator's Guide to Controlling Sexual Harassment, Thompson Publishing Co., Washington, DC, 1993.[44]


  1. ^ Bernice Sandler, ‘godmother of Title IX’ who championed women’s rights on campus, dies at 90
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "All About Bernice Sandler". Archived from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bernice R. Sandler, MSA SC 3520-15244". Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Who's who of American women : 1981–1982 (12th ed.). Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1981. pp. 652–653. ISBN 9780837904122. OCLC 7453358.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sandler, Bernice Resnick - National Women's Hall of Fame". National Women’s Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  6. ^ a b "GREEN, Edith Starrett | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  7. ^ a b "MINK, Patsy Takemoto | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  8. ^ a b "Birch Bayh Biography". Indiana University Libraries. 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  9. ^ a b c "Title IX - The Nine". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  10. ^ a b c 01, Conference Room. "Bernice R. Sandler, Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2018-02-25.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b c d "Sandler, Bernice Resnick. Papers of Bernice Resnick Sandler, 1963–2008: A Finding Aid". Archived from the original on 2018-07-03. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  12. ^ "Bernice Sandler – Psychology's Feminist Voices". Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  13. ^ a b "Our History | Brooklyn College". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  14. ^ a b Admin, Website (2015-06-30). "Our History | The City College of New York". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  15. ^ a b "WREI Staff". Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  16. ^ "Bernice R. Sandler, MSA SC 3520-15244". Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  17. ^ a b c Sandler, Bernice (2007). "Title IX: How We Got It and What a Difference it Made". Cleveland State Law Review. 55 (4): 473–489. ISSN 0009-8876.
  18. ^ "Women's Equity Action League | American organization". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  19. ^ a b c d e Murphy, Irene L. (1973). Public policy on the status of women; agenda and strategy for the 70's. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. pp. 37–65. ISBN 0669903167. OCLC 659010.
  20. ^ Education, Liberal (2015-01-27). "Crisis and Opportunity: The Founding of the Association of American Colleges". Association of American Colleges & Universities. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  21. ^ "OCWW | Vol 39, Issue 3 | Features". Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  22. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  23. ^ "About Center for Women Policy". Center for Women Policy. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  24. ^ "About WREI". Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  25. ^ a b c d e Sandler, Bernice (July 2006). ""Too Strong for a Woman" - The Five Words that Created Title IX". Equity & Excellence in Education. 33 (1): 9–13. doi:10.1080/1066568000330103. S2CID 143300864.
  26. ^ "Lyndon B. Johnson: Executive Order 11375—Amending Executive Order No. 11246, Relating to Equal Employment Opportunity". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  27. ^ "Executive Order No. 11246". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  28. ^ "U.S. Department of Labor - OFCCP - Executive Order 11246, As Amended". Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  29. ^ Berishaj, Katrina (2014). "Athletics & Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments". Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law. 15 (1): 255–284.
  30. ^ rpowell (2017-06-21). "NCAA releases new report as Title IX turns 45". - The Official Site of the NCAA. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  31. ^ Pennington, Bill (2002-05-09). "More Men's Teams Benched As Colleges Level the Field". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  32. ^ "VI. A List of "Firsts"". Archived from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  33. ^ 01, Conference Room. "Bernice R. Sandler, Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2018-03-31.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ (2013-11-25). "AAC&U Congratulates Bernice Sandler on Induction into National Women's Hall of Fame". Association of American Colleges & Universities. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  35. ^ "The Chilly Climate: Subtle Ways in Which Women are Often Treated Differently at". Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  36. ^ a b "Rise of the Wahine Documentary Film". Archived from the original on 2018-03-31. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  37. ^ "ChangeMakers". Rise of the Wahine Documentary Film. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  38. ^ "Title IX Women's Sports Documentary". Rise of the Wahine Documentary Film. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  39. ^ "National Center for Health Research | The Voice for Prevention, Treatment and Policy". National Center for Health Research. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  40. ^ "APA Presidential Citation awarded to Dr. Bernice". Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  41. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Bernice Resnick Sandler
  42. ^ Sandler, Bernice; Silverberg, Lisa A.; Hall, Roberta M. (1996). The Chilly Classroom Climate: A Guide to Improve The Education of Women. Washington, DC: National Association for Women in Education. ASIN B0006QZ8I2.
  43. ^ Sexual harassment on campus : a guide for administrators, faculty, and students. Sandler, Bernice Resnick., Shoop, Robert J., Bratt, Carolyn S. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 1997. ISBN 0205167128. OCLC 34471900.CS1 maint: others (link)
  44. ^ Sandler, Bernice Resnick; Paludi, Michele Antoinette (1993). "Educator's guide to controlling sexual harassment". Educator's Guide to Controlling Sexual Harassment. OCLC 36058687.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]