Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2021
Earlier this May, Betsy DeVos, the US Secretary of Education, announced the new Title IX regulations that were to be implemented by the beginning of August. DeVos argued that the regulations did not provide due process to students accused of sexual assault. Victim advocacy groups contended that her amended rules discourage victims from reporting their sexual assaults or harassment. Victim advocacy groups also state that schools are unprepared to implement many of the changes to Title IX. Students, women’s rights organizations and educational groups have come together and have filed a law suit to stop the new relegations from taking effect. This is only one of many suits that have been filed to stop the regulations. When people think of sexual assault on college campuses, many people automatically think of Title IX. However, many states around the country have their own state laws that also regulate how colleges and universities are supposed to handle sexual assault and harassment cases. These state laws will also have to be amended to follow the new Title IX regulations.
History of Title IX
On June 23, 1972 Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX bars discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities offered by entities receiving federal funds. Title IX covers colleges and universities, but also elementary and secondary schools. Title IX’s fundamental principle is that students may not be denied educational opportunities based on their sex, mainly focusing on women. Title IX requires schools to ensure there is no sexual discrimination in admission, financial assistance, athletics, sex-based harassment, employment, and many other areas of education. Prior to Title IX being enacted, women were often excluded or had limited access to educational programs. Women at colleges and universities faced much discrimination like early curfews and being excluded from “male” programs like medicine. This discrimination effected not only females students, but also female faculty. Women in faculty were denied tenure more frequently than their male counter parts are were not allowed to enter faculty clubs. Receiving an education benefits people far beyond the educational setting, therefore the benefits of Title IX extend beyond those experienced in school.
Changes to Title IX
Previously schools were required to investigate all claims of sexual misconduct that was reported to them. The new regulations state that schools only have to investigate if the event occurred in one of three places, “(i) the incident occurs “under the operations” of the school, (ii) the school has “substantial control” over both the respondent and the context of the incident, or (iii) the incident occurs in a building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by a college or university.” Under the new regulations, all complaints must be written. Oral complaints will no longer be accepted. Complaints must be reported to the Title IX coordinator or a school official with “the authority to institute corrective measures” has “actual knowledge of the incident.” If those requirements are not met the school has no obligation to investigate the claim.
Students are now only able to file a complaint with their school if the perpetrator is still “participating in or attempting to participate in the education program or activity” meaning if the victim or perpetrator graduates or leaves the school for any reason, the school can dismiss the complaint. The new regulations allow for live cross-examination. Survivors will be subject to cross-examination by the perpetrator’s advisor of choice, who can be anyone the perpetrator would like. If the survivor does not answer even a single question during the cross-examination the school will disregard all of the survivor’s statements. This is not an exhausted list of the changes to Title IX.
Many changes were made to Title IX and they have not been well received. Students and faculty from universities from around the country have been expressing to their administrations how detrimental the new regulations will be to survivors of sexual assault or harassment. These advocates point out that the definition of sexual harassment/assault has been limited in scope of what can even be reported. It seems that these regulations are not increasing the odds of justice being served and are only creating more obstacles for universities that are not equipped to handle them.