Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed by president Richard Nixon in 1972 which states, “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.” The interpretation, enforcement and implementation of the policy are left up to the Department of Education and the president, who have recently brought about changes to the protections.
The biggest change being made to the Obama-era Title IX protections is due process protection for the accused. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposal says they require “a presumption of innocence throughout the grievance process; written notice of allegations and an equal opportunity to review all evidence collected; and the right to cross-examination, subject to ‘rape shield’ protections.”
The new changes also offer more precise methods of protection and support for survivors: academic course adjustments, counseling, no-contact orders, dorm room reassignments, leaves of absence and class schedule changes.
These changes come after controversy over Title IX protections. In 2011, Obama’s education department’s Office of Civil Rights sent out the “Dear Colleague” letter creating new rules and guidelines under Title IX that colleges receiving federal funding had to follow. When addressing the new policy, former Vice President Joe Biden said, “We are the first administration to make it clear that sexual assault is not just a crime, it is a violation of women’s civil rights.”
The Obama-era Title IX protections have received criticism from various sides. One criticism comes from Betsy DeVos, current U.S. Secretary of Education, who called the Obama era policy a “failed system” of “weaponized” civil rights and “kangaroo courts.” She also emphasized that the “era of rule by letter is over” when talking about the “Dear Colleague” letters.
Additionally, many critics believe the “preponderance of evidence” that schools use is not good enough. Many believe the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is fairer and better, pointing out that because of this policy, many people have been falsely accused without fair due process.
There are also concerns over the data used to push Obama’s bill. The “Dear Colleague” letter says, “A report prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that about one in five women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college.” One of the authors of the study additionally said that he does not “think one in five is a nationally representative statistic.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, the average rate of student rape or sexual assault for females ages 18 to 24 between 2010 and 2013 was 1 in 52.6 women.
The new changes would impact UMBC as it is a school that receives state funding. It remains to be seen whether UMBC will fight this new policy or implement it without any controversy.