In June, President Biden, along with the U.S. Department of Education proposed amendments to the Title IX legislation.
In his statement released on June 23, Biden stated, “I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans.”
Former U.S. President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972. Major author and sponsor of Title IX, Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink introduced the legislation to Congress. After her death in 2002, Title IX was officially renamed to the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
Title IX outlaws sex based exclusion and discrimination in any U.S. education program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance. For example, Grand Rapids Community College must follow Title IX because it receives money from the federal government.
Conversely, private undergraduate colleges and private schools controlled by religious organizations are exempt from abiding by Title IX, because those institutions do not receive money from the federal government.
If an educational institution does not follow Title IX, any Federal funding they receive can legally be withdrawn.
Biden’s proposed changes will alter what is considered a Title IX violation. Under the Trump administration, some forms of sexual harassment weren’t regarded as Title IX violations. His administration also modified Title IX to require educational institutions to investigate only formal sexual harassment complaints. Biden’s version will require the affected schools to investigate all complaints.
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education specifically outlines what is planned. In addition to broadening the definition of sexual harassment and establishing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, the proposed changes will clarify the protections students, faculty, and staff have from retaliation.
This update will allow, but no longer require, live hearings and cross examination in Title IX investigations. It will require these publicly funded colleges to confront off-campus conduct that “creates or contributes to a hostile environment.”
In a return to expanding mandatory reporting requirements, if an incident involves students, anyone with “teaching” or “advising” responsibilities, must notify the Title IX office. Additionally, the update requires all other faculty and staff members to give students the contact information of the campus’ Title IX coordinator, unless the faculty member is designated as a confidential resource. Read the details in the Title IX summary of major provisions chart here.
“These proposed changes won’t take effect until the fall,” Lina Blair, GRCC Title IX Coordinator said. “We have a Title IX Policy Committee, so that group will get together to review the changes and update our policy. Once the policy has been updated, we’ll update the website, the materials, etc. This group has not gotten together yet.”
The U.S. Department of Education sent GRCC’s Title IX Policy Committee this Q&A document. It’s not actual legislation, it’s a question-and-answer resource to assist schools in clarifying their responsibilities under Title IX.
Brett Meyer, attorney in GRCC’s General Counsel Department, shed some light on the legal process, “Our office is responsible for making sure the college is compliant with any laws and regulations, if and when the Title IX updates become legislation.”
“We’re thoroughly reviewing the proposed regulations, and making sure that we and others who need to be involved, understand what is being proposed,” Meyer said. “We are in the process of reviewing our policies and practices as well. This is no small undertaking because the proposed rules from the Department of Education is 700 pages.”
When asked how the proposed legislation changes would affect students, Blair said, “I don’t have an answer to that yet. The goal, the big picture idea, is to ensure that all parties in a Title IX complaint are treated equally throughout an investigation process.”
Contact Title IX Coordinator Lina Blair at 616-234-3924 and attorney Brett Meyer at 616-234-2120.