Over 50 years after it was enacted into U.S. law, Title IX, fully known as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, still stirs up questions on college campuses. Title IX initiated several changes on college campuses, but it is famed for ensuring equal funding for women’s and men’s sports. Formally, the law made it so that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance[.]”
With contributions from Prevention Educator Heather Surrency and Office of Title IX Director and Coordinator Sarah Laake, The Sandspur is debunking and discussing Title IX facts and misconceptions.
According to Surrency and Laake, a handful of harmful myths are often encountered by the Office of Title IX, including the myths that:
- Sexual violence only happens to certain “types” of women
- Men can’t be assaulted
- Incidents are about sexual gratification or usually involve strangers
- A survivor’s behavior, clothing, alcohol use, etc. are the cause of the incidents
- False reports are common
- People who don’t report to law enforcement are lying
“Myths about power-based violence are false beliefs that typically shift blame from the person who chooses to perpetrate crime, violence, or abuse to the survivor and serve to minimize the trauma caused by these incidents,” Surrency adds. “Many of these myths have been part of popular culture for a long time and result from long-standing gender role expectations, acceptance of violence, and incorrect information. Belief in these myths is harmful to both individuals and society in general. It reduces reporting by survivors, fails to hold perpetrators accountable for their behavior, and normalizes abuse.”
Due to a federal law called the “Clery Act,” Rollins and other higher learning institutions are required to notify the college community when crimes occur near or on campus involving immediate threat to safety or health. The Act, likewise, requires the college to provide information on crime statistics, disciplinary procedures, fire safety, and so on.
Rollins does publish this information in its Annual Safety & Fire Safety Report. Violence Against Women Act offenses refer to parties as the “Complainant” and the “Respondent.” Their outlined policies may be interpreted as a system where the wishes and preferences of the complainant are honored after information is provided, including the process of pressing charges or contacting local police; disciplinary action is often only taken at the request of the affected party.
“Students are never required to file a formal complaint or participate in an investigation. In limited circumstances, the College may initiate an investigation, but the impacted party would still have the choice of whether to participate,” Surrency clarified.
The Argument for Amending Title IX
While the internal disciplinary action process leaves a great deal of power in the complainant’s hands, the argument arises that this also places a burden on the victim, where schools have more liberty in determining punishments for sexual violence than the justice system does.
According to attorney Robert Shibley in TIME Magazine, “The motivation for this ‘police optional’ approach is based in compassion. Advocates argue that law enforcement is skeptical or dismissive of accusers’ claims, that a police investigation will ‘revictimize’ those who have already been through a traumatic experience they’d rather not revisit, and that the evidentiary standards maintained by the criminal justice system means that it’s likely their attackers will go free … Yet the huge costs of this approach are too often ignored. Foremost is the fact that many campus sex crimes are never subjected to professional forensic investigation, leaving perpetrators unpunished and free to commit further crimes.”
In essence, Shibley is skeptical of the manner in which a federal offense can often be kept from the police; it appears difficult to balance the wishes of the complainant while recognizing the threat to others that persists if the complainant does not wish to press criminal charges.
He mentions a letter written by the Rape, Incenst, and Abuse National Network to the White House, which begs the following: “It would never occur to anyone to leave the adjudication of a murder in the hands of a school’s internal judicial process. Why, then, is it not only common, but expected, for them to do so when it comes to sexual assault?”
Offenses like cheating or drug use often warrant expulsion in schools, but this is not the baseline response for sexual assault.
While Title IX evidently offers tremendous benefits, there are some downsides as described by — in an article for Forbes ; men still dominate as coaches of collegiate sports, and scholarships geared towards women have been curbed.
“As a result, the Department of Education is investigating and shuttering not just women’s scholarships and awards at universities but leadership programs and even gym hours reserved for women as well,” stated Shipley. “These programs discriminate against men according to Title IX.”
Why don’t students receive updates about Title IX outcomes?
According to the Office of Title IX, “The outcome of a Title IX informal or formal resolution process cannot be released publicly. Students have a right to privacy under FERPA, a federal law which restricts the release of academic records without the consent of a student. Both the complainant (impacted person) and respondent (accused person) in a Title IX informal or formal resolution process receive notice of the outcome of the case in which they were involved. Students found responsible of a Title IX-related policy violation may receive a variety of sanctions including educational requirements, disciplinary warning, community probation, deferred suspension, suspension, and/or dismissal.”
The U.S. Department of Education has proposed some upcoming amendments to Title IX, including establishing “that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity just because of who they are. The proposed rule also recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation.”
The public comment period for this proposed amendment closes on May 15.
Other revisions have been made by the Department of Education that will be adopted by Rollins once they are finalized.
Surrency adds that these revisions “reflect the Department’s continued commitment to secure equal opportunity, combat sexual harassment and sexual violence, and provide clear and fair procedures for students, educators, and others involved in America’s education system to address sex discrimination in schools and on campuses.”
Confidential reporting options for sex-based discrimination:
Rollins Wellness Center
118 W. Fairbanks Avenue Winter Park, FL 32789
407-628-6340 (Monday-Friday 8:30am-5:00pm)
833-848-1761 (After-Hours Crisis Phone)
Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life
Reverend Katrina Jenkins
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Cornell Counseling Clinic
Cornell Social Sciences Building, 2nd Floor
Dr. Caitlyn Bennett: email@example.com; 407-691-1708; Cornell Hall 251
Dr. Derrick Paladino: firstname.lastname@example.org; 407-646-1567; Cornell Hall 240
Dr. Samuel Sanabria: email@example.com; 407-646-2352; Cornell Hall 238