By Nora Fitzgerald
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. A§ 1681 ET. SEQ.
Title IX, along with other major women’s rights victories that have happened in March, has led to March being nationally recognized as Women’s History Month.
During the month of March, it is important to recognize the vital contributions made to the women’s rights movement over the years. The culmination of these contributions is what allows women today to continue breaking glass ceilings.
Title IX is a very recent field considering that institutions of higher education have existed since the 17th century. Although, women were not permitted to attend colleges and universities until the late 1800s.
For over a hundred years, higher education institutions had no federally mandated approach to dealing with gender based misconduct. It was not until 1972, following the Civil Rights Act, that the federal government implemented a national standard for sex discrimination within the scope of college campuses known as Title IX.
One of the ways we can see Title IX work in action is through sport. Thanks to Title IX, participation in female collegiate sports has grown exponentially.
Prior to this legislation, women’s athletic teams were underfunded, ill-equipped and not taken nearly as seriously as male sports teams. Female athletes now have a legal right to fair scheduling, appropriate medical care and sufficient funding.
The pressure and criticism that female athletes face is part of why this law is so important. There is still so much work to do to empower female athletes to keep up with their sport.
According to Time Magazine, young girls are twice as likely to quit their sport by age 14 compared to their male counterparts. However, with Title IX in effect, there is growing support to protect and uplift women in sport.
The Obama administration’s Dear Colleague Letter of 2011 brought more clarity and direction to a college or university’s approach to resolving gender based misconduct outlined in the original Title IX document.
Another important body of legislation is the Clery Act, and more specifically, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments issued in 2014. VAWA expanded some of the judicial processes that relate to interpersonal or dating violence and increased visibility of domestic violence issues.
The most recent adjustments to the federal Title IX rules came from Betsy DeVos, former president Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. These changes were miniscule in writing, but made the process of investigation a bit more complicated.
DeVos implemented these changes in an effort to ensure due process, both for the accused and the accuser. Title IX officials are anticipating more changes coming from the Biden administration.
President Biden has not specifically outlined a plan for these changes, however things may start to unfold from the Department of Education as Miguel Cardona was just confirmed as Secretary of Education.
Springfield College’s perspective on student misconduct is that it is an educational process that requires prevention and appropriate discipline. The Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives is constantly exploring alternative solutions to sexual misconduct that will allow students to grow, thrive and succeed during their time at Springfield.
When it comes to sensitive situations such as sexual assault or dating violence, the college ensures that student safety comes first and works as a neutral body to find an appropriate solution to the matter at hand.
The Title IX process can be a difficult one to navigate, and students may be intimidated by the complexities of this work. On our campus, the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives (aka the Title IX office) can be found on the main level of the Campus Union, Office 228.
Students are always welcome to come pick up any resources or ask questions to understand more about what ONDI can do for them.
The Office will be promoting upcoming programs and events during the month of March in the Campus Union, so stay tuned for more from their office. Erin Leeper, Director of Non-Discrimination Initiatives, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.