New Title IX Rules Directly Hit Harvard and Yale

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of the new advisory that the White House put out last week about the application of Title IX to tougher college standards on sex assault. A sports-equity law can now be used to combat sexual violence.

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Best News since 1972

That the Office for Civil Rights had the courage to open an investigation against the alma mater of the president of the United States is, itself, impressive. One needn't be a cynic to appreciate how easy it is for power to trump justice.

There's something to be said for an administration that has no problem holding two of the world's most powerful institutions accountable for failing to respect women's civil rights. And make no mistake, when schools of the magnitude of Harvard and Yale are put in their place everyone else lines up behind them. It's the best news for women in education since Title IX was enacted in 1972.

Here are a few additional points about Title IX, made clear in the new advisory:

  1. A single act of sexual assault is enough to constitute actionable "sexual harassment" under Title IX.
  2. Schools must provide redress for sexual assault and sexual harassment even if the behavior occurs off-campus or in cyber-space, so long as the effects are felt on campus such that they interfere with a student's equal access to education.
  3. All rights accorded accused students must also be given to victims. A school's disciplinary system is not akin to a criminal prosecution. The victim and the accused stand on equal footing and are entitled to equal rights at every stage of the process.
  4. Schools must provide clear timeframes so that students understand when each stage of the investigation and final resolution of a complaint will be completed.
  5. Schools must ensure that the well-being of victims is protected before, during and after a disciplinary decision is rendered, and to prevent a retaliatory hostile environment from developing.

It's been a long time coming but Title IX has finally obtained its rightful seat at the anti-discrimination table. And our president, who I'd said didn't have it in him to do the right thing on this issue, proved me wrong.


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Wendy Murphy is an adjunct professor at New England Law/Boston where she teaches a seminar on sexual violence. She's a former sex crimes prosecutor and author of "And Justice For Some." An impact litigator who specializes in violence against women, Murphy consults and lectures widely on sex crimes, violence against women and children and criminal justice policy.

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As the Associate Director of a campus counseling center, I am concerned about protecting the confidentiality rights of students who disclose in their counseling session of a sexual assault incident but do not want it to be reported. Does this advisory mean college counselors will now be mandated reporters of sexual assault/harassment, much like suspected child abuse & neglect?

I believe that Stanford has these same stringent requirements too. These schools care more about protecting their rep for "not having rapists" than they do about the women and future women who will be harmed by these rapists.