By Christopher Galvan
Higher education institutions throughout the United States have come under fire recently for potentially violating Title IX, a portion of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sexual discrimination in all American schools.
Federal investigations of this nature generally take about six months; however, due to the sheer number of schools under investigation the probes can take much longer.
Title IX states, in pertinent part, that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from” denied the benefits of” or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
This effectively makes it a violation of federal law for students to face sex or gender-based discrimination at any educational institution that receives federal funding.
For public and private universities that receive and distribute financial assistance to students, like the California State University system, this means that any proven discrimination on the basis of gender could lead to what is colloquially referred to as the “nuclear” option: a suspension of federal financial assistance.
This would place the majority of financial aid responsibility on the institutions themselves, and reduce the amount of students that could potentially receive grant and loan funds toward their education.
In May, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced and publicly released a list of 55 higher education institutions now under federal investigation for possible Title IX violations, in an effort to increase transparency regarding some school’s investigations. That number rose to 76 before the end of the summer, and currently includes institutions such as Virginia State University, Princeton University, Florida State University, and the University of California’s Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses.
The investigations were launched because of a perceived inability of college and university campuses to properly investigate and adjudicate matters of sexual violence, although the OCR emphasizes that just because a school is on the list does not mean they have violated federal law.
The announcement came following President Barack Obama’s establishment of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which aims to “put an end to sexual violence, particularly on college campuses,” according to a Department of Education press release. However, the aw applies to all schools: K-12, colleges and universities. While investigations can be launched proactively in the form of compliance reviews, many investigations began after complaints were received by the department’s Office for Civil Rights. Neither the University of California nor the Department of Education have clarified what prompted the investigations at the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses.
Updated Title IX legislation has been implemented as recently as November in the CSU system. The CSU appointed Pamela Thomason as the first-ever systemwide Title IX compliance officer this month.
CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Fram Virjee said that the CSU is working to improve upon the education and training for all members of the system.
“Safety is a paramount priority on our campuses and [Thomason’s] hiring is another step in working to ensure the safest possible learning environment for our students,” said Virjee in a press release.
Thomason will spearhead efforts across the 23 CSU campuses to combat issues of sexual violence and predation, improve how cases are handled once reported to Title IX officers on campuses and report to the Office of General Counsel. In the wake of the new position and accusations by the federal government, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White has worked to revise and update training and implementation of sexual assault prevention for all employees in the system, and in June declared that all campuses in the CSU system would have dedicated sexual assault advocates in place by June 2015. Cal Poly Pomona is currently holding a search for a campus Title IX coordinator.
Gabrielle Penaranda / The Poly Post
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