June 22, 2022
Administrators working in Title IX offices at colleges across the nation have noticed a change in recent years: their jobs and the work that they do is increasingly reflecting that of a court system.
The most recent regulatory overhaul to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was made by the Trump administration in 2020. It narrowed the types of cases that fall under Title IX, limited the discretion of Title IX coordinators to create policies and procedures on their campuses, and created a complex, lengthy and intimidating process that many believe has deterred reporting instances of sexual violence or discrimination.
“We’re essentially creating a college court under federal mandate,” said Peter Lake, the chair and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, where he is also a professor. “There’s never been anything like it in the history of American higher education, where the federal government has been so specific and directed student corrective behavior.”
The Biden administration has placed many of the Trump changes on hold and is expected to announce its Title IX policies soon.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving federal funds. At colleges and universities, Title IX is supposed provide protective services to those who have suffered sex discrimination and to punish those who discriminate.
When the Trump administration conducted a major overhaul of the Title IX regulations in 2020, the change elevated the definition of sexual harassment to a much higher standard than ever before, along with adding lengthy prescriptive procedures that colleges must follow regarding complaints, investigations and hearings.
Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, said that under the 2020 regulations, “fewer cases would be subject to Title IX, but the practical impact was that those cases that are subject to Title IX became exponentially harder to facilitate.”
Colleges vary in how they interpret Title IX. However, generally, when a student or faculty or staff member comes to a Title IX office at a college, they are offered two options: to pursue a formal investigation and hearing or engage in an informal resolution process.