To the editor: June 23 was the 48th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the landmark civil rights law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal funds. The American Association of University Women was instrumental in the passage of this law. Since its passage, opponents have sought to weaken it.
Recently the U.S. Department of Education finalized regulations that will make it harder for students who have experienced sexual harassment or violence to access the protections Title IX was created to provide. This new rule, which goes into effect on Aug. 14, 2020, includes substantive changes that will make it harder for victims to come forward and get the help they need. Our local university has been working diligently to make it easier for victims to report, and the university to investigate, sexual harassment complaints. This rule turns the clock back, reversing policies that were put in place in order to make it easier for survivors to report sexual misconduct.
This change stacks the deck against survivors by making it more traumatic to come forward, complicating the process for filing a formal complaint, and forcing them into trial-like live hearings where they must face cross-examination in order to pursue a formal grievance against an assailant. It relaxes the definition of sexual harassment, thereby greatly reducing the types of harassing behavior that students are protected from. All students deserve access to an education that is free from sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. These new rules add extra burden to students, increase costs and complexity to the university, and reduce the coverage for victims available under Title IX.
The members of the Fairbanks Branch of the American Association of University Women feel that this new rule is both harmful and inappropriate. The U.S. Department of Education should be prioritizing the safety of all students rather than making it more difficult to seek justice under Title IX.