“Schools will hire Title IX coordinators … who will engage in institutional cover-ups. Schools have spent decades trying to hide their statistics.”
Jasmine Lester, a 2011 graduate of Arizona State University, experienced something like that first hand. “The Title IX coordinator fought with me and tried to dissuade me from filing my complaint,” says Lester.
Originally published by USA Today on January 5, 2014.
Sofie Karasek was sexually assaulted during her freshmen year at the University of California at Berkeley. When she reported the incident to her Title IX coordinator and Center for Student Conduct in April 2012, she was discouraged.
“The Title IX coordinator and Center for Student Conduct made it sound like they couldn’t really do much,” Karasek says.
Nearly a year later, the Associated Students of the University of California, the student governing body at Berkeley, passed a bill “expressing no confidence in UC Berkeley sexual assault policies.”
Karasek also filed a Clery Act complaint against the University of California at Berkeley for mishandling her case.
Congress passed Title IX in 1972 to prevent students attending schools that receive federal funding from being discriminated against on the basis of gender — whether that be from sexual harassment at school or exclusion from sports.
Title IX’s regulations require that schools receiving federal funding designate one person to carry out the school’s responsibilities under the law.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights received 2,839 complaints involving allegations of Title IX discrimination.
While there have been great strides made in gender equity in education, some argue there needs to be more oversight of the law, especially in higher education in the upcoming year.
“The Office for Civil Rights for the Department of Education is stronger now than it has been for a very long time. Looking at it with the glass half empty, the Obama administration had lot to make up from the Bush administration,” Lisa Maatz, president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), says.
The AAUW argues that due to a lack of funding, the Department of Education is not able to properly train, monitor or help Title IX coordinators in implementing the law. For example, the Office of Civil Rights does not keep a master list of Title IX coordinators.
“(I) often get calls from colleges because students and faculty call our office because they don’t know who their Title IX coordinator is,” William Howe, the Title IX Coordinator for the State of Connecticut, says. His office does keep a list of all Title IX coordinators for K-12 institutions.
Financial pressures often take precedent over Title IX.
According to Jeff Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate, less than 3% of Division 1 athletic programs generate enough revenues to be self-sufficiently run.
“Our institutions are beginning to react to these financial realities by reducing athletic teams … Title IX initiatives will most likely be affected negatively over the coming years,” Smith says.
Danielle Dirks, a professor at Occidental College, suggests schools keep their reports of crimes such as sexual assault low to attract applicants.
“Schools will hire Title IX coordinators … who will engage in institutional cover-ups. Schools have spent decades trying to hide their statistics, Dirks, one of two professors to file both Clery and Title IX complaints against Occidental, says.
Jasmine Lester, a 2011 graduate of the Arizona State University, experienced something like that first hand.
“The Title IX coordinator fought with me, and tried to dissuade me from filing my complaint,” says Lester.
However, some colleges are working to improve their Title IX enforcement.
This year, Grinnell College has worked with its student government to improve Title IX enforcement after surveying its students.
“Whether you’re at college or not, it’s hard to come forward with a sexual assault … The changes have been really well received by students,” Emma Lange, a sophomore at Grinnell, says.
While the Department of Education is still reviewing her complaint, Karasek has seen progress at Berkeley.
In August 2013, UC Berkeley hired a new Title IX Coordinator and made an interim sexual misconduct policy. She hopes growing student interest in Title IX will spark change.
“A lot more students are becoming aware of how important it is to be aware of your rights on campus,” Karasek says.