“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.”
Those words are the heart of a law called Title IX, adopted in 1972. The law is primarily focused on gender equality in sports on university campuses. In recent years, Title IX has also been used to investigate claims of sexual misconduct on campus.
Last week, Texas A&M announced policy changes in how Title IX cases are investigated. Jessica Luther is following the story. She is the author of ‘Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape’ and says these changes are just the beginning.
“It’s important to say, they are in the middle of the process,” she says. “They announced last week that they are going to make immediate changes. Such as when you report there will be one single case manager who will handle that entire report. Before, people where saying that they had to tell their story to multiple staff members and A&M over and over again they’re retelling their trauma. They’ve now streamlined that.”
Luther also says that the university will hire more personnel to oversee Title IX issues, as well as hire more councilors and place them throughout the university, so students have easier access to them. Changes have also been announced to what the possible outcomes will be to someone who is found in violation of Title IX.
“They are making it so that distinctions are clear,” she says, “when you go into the process you know based on what you’ve been charged with, what the possible sanctions are on the other side. So everyone is really clear about what kind of punishment could possible happen if you are found responsible and if you are found responsible if you are dismissed, suspended or expelled, that will go on your transcript.”
But questions have been raised by some about how the new policies will affect the right of those accused to receive due process. Luther explains that clearing up the investigation process to make it more clear will help with that.
“The idea is that they are trying to make it transparent,” Luther says. “That everyone understands exactly how the process is going to go, so if it doesn’t go that way then they can say ‘this is not working the way that it’s supposed, you are not following policy‘ and it’s been really muddled before and that is unfair to both sides. Even the women who’ve come forward that have been helping A&M have been clear about that. That everyone wins when everything is a lot more transparent and policy is a lot clearer.”
Luther says that the core of Title IX is equality to education and that is something that universities will have to continue to figure out.
“The idea is that everyone should have equal access to their education,” she says, “and if gender violence is happening on campus that makes it hard to be able to graduate. So they are trying to make it so that everyone has equal access and I think that is something that all universities are struggling with and are trying to fix at this point.”