Title IX is a policy that protects students from gender based discrimination that interferes with their academic experience. It originally was implemented in 1972, starting with athletics. The goal was to eliminate disparities between men and women’s access to athletics, the number of athletes on teams, and the facilities they could use.
In the past decade, Title IX has expanded and evolved to address sexual harassment. The policy is designed to ensure the safety and comfort of students who may have experienced sexual assault on campus.
Last Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos effectively sided with sexual assaulters when she revealed her plans to restructure Title IX. Currently, in order to be found responsible of sexual assault under the Title IX reporting process, investigators must find that there is a “50 percent and a feather” chance that it happened. Devos, however, wants to change this to “clear and convincing” evidence, meaning a 75 percent chance that it happened.
No other student conduct policies on college campuses require that much certainty. When it comes to gender-based discrimination, this elevation excuses those guilty of sexual assault. “If you know anything about how sexual violence works, you know it is one of the most difficult things to provide evidence for so many reasons,” said Leah Ciffolillo, one of the members of START (Student Title IX Assistance and Resource Team). “Moving that to 75 percent makes it pretty much impossible to make or hold anyone responsible for their actions on a college campus.” A change from 50 percent to 75 percent probability jeopardizes a fair evaluation.
This change also reflects how our country tends to view victims of sexual assault. “Typically survivors are met with a lot of doubt and distrust from other people. These changes really just bring that to light and give us proof that this is the tendency,” said Ciffolillo.
Before these changes, sexual violence already went largely under-reported. Before Title IX, many colleges and universities had the tendency to wipe incidents under the rug, and many still do. “If we’re doing this [changing Title IX], it’s probably just going to decrease the confidence in that, like, I’m not going to want to report if I’m just going to be called a liar,” said Maria Mendez, Colorado College’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
“It takes so much strength and courage already. Why would anyone choose to report if no one is ever going to believe them?” added Jamie Baum, another member of START.
“We’re not going back,” said Mendez in regards to CC’s reaction to the new policy. “Unless it is something that is absolutely mandated — like the new standard of proof — we are not going back.”
If anyone is ever in need of Title IX assistance, Mendez’s office is located in Worner 219.