September 15, 2022
These days, everyone seems to have something to say about Title IX.
The Education Department received more than 240,000 comments on its proposed regulatory changes to the federal gender-equity law, which governs how colleges respond to complaints about sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination.
The 60-day comment period closed this week with almost twice as many comments as the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX regulations drew in 2018. While Title IX used to be a niche education issue, it’s recently become a rallying cry for people to express their opinions about transgender inclusion, free speech, and gender theory.
The Biden administration’s proposed rule would broaden the definition of sexual harassment, which was narrowed under the Trump administration’s interpretation. It would also codify rights for LGBTQ students by including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, [and] pregnancy or related conditions.”
The proposal would ax the Trump-era requirement for live hearings and cross-examinations — which victim advocates have criticized for retraumatizing survivors in adversarial court-like processes and deterring some from reporting at all. Colleges would once again be able to use the single-investigator model, in which one administrator examines the allegations and decides whether the accused person should be punished. The approach has drawn pushback from due-process advocates.
The changes would also mark a return to Obama-era mandatory reporting policies by requiring most faculty members and campus employees — as the proposal puts it, anyone with “teaching” or “advising” responsibilities — to report any possible sex discrimination to the Title IX office right away. They would also require colleges to confront off-campus conduct that “creates or contributes to a hostile environment.”
Here are three key takeaways from The Chronicle’s deep dive into the comments section.
Even organizations that have nothing to do with education are weighing in.
Many of the comments came from grass-roots organizing by conservative groups that oppose the inclusion of gender identity in the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX protections — a change that transgender-rights experts say will help make campuses more inclusive. Organizations like the Family Policy Alliance and Concerned Women for America have encouraged their supporters to voice their opposition to these proposed changes.
A comment-writing guide from Concerned Women for America claimed that “women and girls would be stripped of vital protections under the law based on their female status that have been guaranteed under Title IX until now.”