President Trump’s Education Department has just issued new regulations for Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funds, but now primarily associated with sexual misconduct cases on campus.
Known initially for increasing the number of women in college sports, Title IX has become the law most invoked for college sexual misbehavior. This is in large part because of a 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the Obama Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which instructed Title IX recipient schools to treat all cases of alleged sexual violence as sexual discrimination. Obama Vice President Joe Biden spearheaded the administration’s push of these practices on campus.
In the years following, campus Title IX offices searched for, found, and punished thousands of students—mostly male—for sexual misconduct under threat of losing federal funds. Title IX coordinators, investigators, and adjudicators instituted disciplinary proceedings for allegations of serious sexual crimes, as well as more innocent sexual missteps.
Campuses did this although these coordinators had no practical experience in criminal law, such as representing accused parties, and no regard for procedural safeguards designed to protect them—the presumption of innocence, for example, or the right to confront witnesses and be informed of charges against oneself. This basket of rights, known collectively as due process of law, is a hallmark of the common law tradition, developed over centuries and admired the world over.
Title IX then became infamous for its due process horror stories: Those merely accused of sexual misconduct reported verdicts and punishments before even being heard, such as being summarily ejected from campus (Joseph Roberts at Savannah State University) or indefinitely suspended (James Haidak of University of Massachusetts) or, most recently in Kentucky, even being placed in solitary confinement.
Not surprisingly, those railroaded began to fight back: More than 500 lawsuits have been filed claiming that schools violate due process, or breach student handbooks, or even that they violate Title IX because of bias against men. Students have received favorable rulings in almost half these cases.
It was against this backdrop that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama Dear Colleague letter in September 2017 and proposed new regulations about a year later. On Wednesday, her Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights formally released the regulations in final form.
Thankfully, the regulations now require schools to presume innocence, to disclose allegations and evidence against an accused party, and to allow a response and defense before punishment. They also provide for live hearings at post-secondary institutions, with questioning and cross-examination of parties and witnesses. All Title IX personnel must be free of conflicts of interest or bias, and their training materials must be made available to the public.
Groups such as the National Association of Scholars (NAS) have continued reservations about, and are further reviewing, other aspects of the regulatory scheme, such as accusers’ ability to appeal exoneration decisions (posing “double-jeopardy”—type risks), the omission of any deadline to file complaints (akin to a statute of limitations), and the inclusion of some sexual misconduct as educational discrimination under Title IX without evaluating its effect on equal educational access.
NAS included due process as part of its reform program for all of higher education as institutions seek federal relief funds due to the pandemic. NAS has recommended the involvement of due process professionals in campus Title IX proceedings and specified that such professionals be external to the recipient school. The leftward politicization of most American colleges and universities, including their Title IX offices, questions their institutional ability to be fair and impartial in claims as emotionally and politically charged as sexual misconduct.
On that point, neither an anti-discrimination law nor its new regulations will fix the mess that is the current college dating scene and the source of so much Title IX activity. As most know, today’s campus is consumed by militant feminism, responsible for the phrase “toxic masculinity” as well as a sex-on-demand mentality.
Title IX offices and their partner entities on campus—health centers, women’s centers, equity and inclusion offices, and student affairs offices—are overwhelmingly staffed by employees of this feminist, “gender violence prevention” stripe. By their thinking, women now get to use others for sexual pleasure just as much as men do. It’s part hedonism marketed as equality, part payback for cads over the years. (The phrase “healthy masculinity,” by contrast, appears nowhere and seems a non-concept.)
These offices mean business and happily distribute tools to encourage the “hook-up culture” of numerous, transient sexual encounters: “Condom corners” featuring the free, colored and flavored (“If it’s flavored, it’s meant to be tasted!”); finger condoms; dental dams; and Planned Parenthood brochures advertising abortifacients and all manner of sexual practices.
“We’re encouraging student autonomy and pleasure,” says one “sexual health counselor.” “This is about healthy hook-ups,” affirms another.
The reality on the ground, however, differs. As one female undergraduate stated plainly about student socializing, “Most guys want sex; most girls want relationships.” Blasphemy to feminist ears, whether entirely true or not this summary raises key questions: Do Title IX offices ever encourage healthy relationships as a way of avoiding misunderstandings that lead to Title IX complaints?
Such programs do exist: Boston University offered a Dating Project class so popular it had a waiting list; Princeton University hosts The Love and Fidelity Network, which encourages sexual integrity to prepare young people for stable marriage and family life; and Warren Farrell, the non-conservative author of “The Boy Crisis,” has developed relationship workshops that could easily be adapted to students.
But in Title IX offices, healthy relationship programs to prevent misunderstandings are rare to non-existent. Instead, at one university, Title IX prevention efforts include “Take Back the Night” Women’s marches, Goddess Diary dances to benefit women’s studies, and sexual assault survivor panels. It’s as if Title IX offices want mishaps to justify their jobs or see the default mode for men and women as estrangement and violence rather than mutual attraction and mutual need.
Who is benefitting from the current state of Title IX with all its sex, abortifacients, and due process deficiencies when things go wrong? Not young American men and women in college. Let’s hope the new regulations shine more light on Title IX as it really operates on campus—encouraging the hook-up culture and all the misunderstanding and misconduct that goes with it.