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Title IX: What Is It?

A cartoon image of a school with pillars in the form of "IX" that say "TITLE" above them

As the 2019-2020 school year approaches, the first few weeks for freshman and transfer students will be incredibly important. In this time, students will be learning about the different resources available to them, which will prove to be vital to not just their education but their wellness. 

Diving into this new and exciting start is an unforgettable experience that will be remembered for the rest of the student’s life. With this new environment, there comes some responsibility on the student to educate themselves on important topics such as Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and what the school is offering for their students. 

Specifically, the one topic I will be focusing on is Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions. This Title, or recognized right, is part of the Federal Education Amendments Act of 1972 which was signed by President Richard Nixon. Under Title IX, schools are legally required to respond and provide a solution to hostile educational environments. If they don’t do so, it is a violation and a school could risk losing its federal funding. Title IX is an emerging topic after the new shift in administration in the U.S. Department of Education. Betsy Devos, the US Secretary of Education, proposed a 149-page edit to Title IX to be instilled in the Federal Education Amendments of 1972. This amendment contains general language on accessibility to all students regardless of sex. The actual written language is as follows.

“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.” 

Betsy Devos’ proposal for edits has received backlash from students and Congress since being released, from critiques on comedy shows all the way to organized protests. Other lawmakers have praised Betsy Devos’ on her proposal saying she has vast experience with charter schools and brought this to her proposal.

Below are the key proposed changes to Title IX:

  • Schools are not responsible for allegations if they are told to professors or coaches. Only Title IX Coordinators or other higher ranking school officers have the authority to report on the incidents.

  • The school will be required to ignore sexual harassment cases off-campus or online. This means that students that experience this type of harassment won’t be able to have it addressed by the school.

  • There is a proposed change to the langauge of sexual harassment. The original document states “Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”. The new proposed definition is an event "so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient's education program or activity." 

  • Under the new language in the proposal, there are no longer no-contact orders because the college can’t “unreasonably burden” the other party.

  • There is currently no clear timeline for investigations so schools are not required to take action right away.

  • There is a change in the standard of proof of evidence in the proposal. It would change from the “preponderance of evidence” (meaning more likely than not true) to “clear and convincing evidence” (meaning without a doubt). This favors the perpetrator on an evidence basis.

  • These changes would also produce a decrease in needed funding by approximately $19 million due to a 39% decrease in investigations.

The SUNY Student Assembly opposes the revised Title IX regulations announced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Student Assembly is particularly opposed to removing the ability of student survivors to seek a campus judicial proceeding for incidents that occur off-campus. An act of sexual violence committed by one student against another off-campus is no less traumatizing, and requires no less campus intervention, than one that occurs on-campus.  

Devos’ proposal was released in November 2018 with a 60 day comment period ending on January 28th, 2019. It officially ended on February 1st, 2019. Currently, the Department of Education is reviewing the comments and is required to consider all comments until release of a draft. This will be released sometime this academic year.

For now, remember to stay educated on this topic. Title IX affects every college student in a school that receives funding from the federal government. As you learn more, you will be able to  improve the lives of the people around you.

Written by Brandon McDonough, SUNY Student Assembly Chair of Campus Safety, SUNY New Paltz

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