AAUP Report: The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX
Today, the AAUP is releasing an important draft report, The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX. We strongly encourage you and your AAUP colleagues to read it and send us your comments.
The report was written by a joint subcommittee of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession. In researching the subject, we found that there are significant problems with the interpretation and enforcement of Title IX by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education and by university administrators.
We found that overly broad definitions of “hostile environment” and regulations conflating sexual misconduct (including assault) with sexual harassment based on speech have resulted in violations of academic freedom through the punishment of protected speech by faculty in their teaching, research, and extramural speech.
We also found that due process and faculty governance are not adequately protected in Title IX enforcement. Universities, under pressure from the OCR, have adopted lowered standards of proof that conflict with due process protections of those accused of misconduct. And university administrators have increasingly acted precipitously in taking punitive measures without respect for faculty rights of academic freedom, due process, or shared governance processes.
While successful resolutions of Title IX lawsuits are often represented as unqualified victories for gender equality, we found that the current interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of Title IX has sometimes compromised the realization of meaningful educational goals that lead to sexually safe campuses. In the context of increasingly “corporatized” universities, administrators may take actions that avoid OCR investigations and private lawsuits but that do not significantly improve gender equity.
Finally, we found that the current interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of Title IX can actually exacerbate inequities on campus. Recent student activism protesting institutionalized racial biases highlights the need to ensure that Title IX enforcement initiatives do not perpetuate race-based biases in the criminal justice system, which disproportionately affect men who are racial minorities.
The draft report explores these issues and contains a detailed history of the enactment of the Title IX statute.
It concludes with AAUP-based policy recommendations about how best to address campus sexual assault and harassment while also protecting academic freedom, free speech, and due process.
We will review all comments received and issue a final version of the report later this spring.
AAUP General Counsel
Member, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure