Title IX at RIT
by Rose Kathryn Lukasiewicz | published Dec. 11th, 2019
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law from the U.S. Department of Education that aims to end sex-based discrimination in educational settings. Title IX itself is only 37 words; it reads, “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.”
Initially, the law was directed at protecting female faculty and staff from discrimination or harassment. The three key areas that are affected by Title IX today are jobs, academics and athletics. Title IX ensures equal rights in these three areas and protects against discrimination, harassment and assault on the basis of sex.
A Brief Timeline
In the early 2000s, there was no standardization as to how colleges across the country dealt with Title IX violations.
In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights out of the Department of Education sent out a Dear Colleague Letter to all college campuses that receive federal funding, including RIT. The letter clarified and reinforced what was included in Title IX and was a guideline of the expectations for schools. It was not new legislation, but campuses across the country responded to it. 2011 was also the first time an official Title IX Coordinator was assigned at RIT.
In 2014, the Office of Civil Rights sent another document to schools, which helped to further explain the best practices regarding Title IX. This Q-and-A document clarified what schools were required to do in order to be in compliance with Title IX.
In 2015, New York state came out with their own legislation regarding sexual assault, as well as domestic and dating violence. It was Article 129b of the New York State Education Law, aka “Enough is Enough”. The state law is much more prescriptive than the federal law and goes into detail regarding sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking. In 2015, as a response, RIT made an official student policy governing gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct. The official RIT policy has evolved over the years to remain compliant with the law.
In 2017, Secretary of Education Besty DeVos sent a letter to college campuses rescinding the Title IX guidelines sent out from 2011. This allowed schools to revert back to the less prescriptive Title IX practices from 2000.
What Has Changed?
The rescinding of the 2011 letter did not require schools to change their policies, but allowed them to if they so desired. RIT decided to keep the strict policies and standards that had already been in place to provide maximum protection to students.
Currently, the Department of Education is making controversial revisions to Title IX that would further protect those accused of sexual misconduct. No other law from the Department of Education has ever garnered so much engagement from the people. The Department of Education received over 100 thousand replies, most regarding opposing changes that have been proposed.
According to Stacy DeRooy, the Director of Title IX and Clery Compliance, the university is considering making changes to their policy as a result of the changes proposed by the Department of Education. However no changes have been made to date.
Reporting a Title IX Violation
RIT requires mandatory Title IX education for students during freshman orientation as well as for some target populations such as student workers, international students, graduate students, students involved in Greek life and NTID. They recently came out with a new online module for returning students. Faculty and staff are required to complete a module annually. Students, faculty and staff are more familiar with Title IX now because of these required trainings.
Second year Electrical Engineering student Christina Nguyen agreed that the training has helped make students aware of the policies, but that there is still a lot that students don't know.
Nguyen said, “I would say that they know a part of it because of the presentation during orientation week, but I don’t think students are aware of all of the policies that are in place to protect them.”
Still, it is clear that students, faculty and staff know more about Title IX and what it protects against than they had in the past.
DeRooy expanded, “I’ll hear things like ‘That’s a Title IX’ or ‘That’s a Title IX issue’ and that would never have been spoken prior to 2011.”
People have also begun to feel more comfortable reporting Title IX violations. The numbers of reports went up significantly from 2011 to 2017, and then leveled off. In 2017, due in part to the “Me Too” movement, the number of reported sexual harassment cases skyrocketed. Since implementing required training for faculty, the Title IX office has also seen an increase in third-party reporting. Third-party reporting typically involves a faculty member reporting a violation that a student mentioned to them. Faculty and staff are mandatory reporters.
There are also confidential resources on campus for students regarding Title IX. These include Counseling and Psychological Services, the Student Health Center, the Center for Women and Gender, the Ombuds Office, the Center for Religious Life and NTID Counseling and Academic Advising Services.
“Filing a report doesn’t mean that it has to go to a full investigation. I wish they knew that the choice is really in their hands, that they’re empowered by coming to our office,” DeRooy said.
Gender-based discrimination, sexual assault and sexual harassment are present everywhere, but RIT policies, as well as state and federal laws are in place to protect students’ rights.