Title IX is under scrutiny


Title IX has become an integral part of education since it went into effect in 1972, with the original intent of ensuring access to higher education for women.

While the law can be complicated to understand, in simple terms it works to fight education and educational-activity discrimination based on sex at any school receiving federal funding. The consequences of an institution violating Title IX can be serious.

On Oct. 23, a complaint was filed against USF for the university’s handling of an alleged sexual violence case. This is on top of a still open investigation from 2014 for the university’s handling of a rape case. Both are being reviewed by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

USF has a month to turn over requested information to the OCR. According to the Tampa Bay Times, this includes how USF publicizes its procedures, training of employees and investigations of sexual violence along with information on the specific case.

From there, the OCR is responsible for reviewing the information and conducting its own investigation. There’s no timeline for OCR investigations, but it could take years, according to university spokesman Adam Freeman. According to Title IX The Chronicle of Higher Education, cases last an average of 1.8 years. 

“USF strives to be a campus that leads the way in promoting a culture where sexual violence is a rare occurrence and simply not tolerated,” Freeman said in a statement. “USF will remain proactive in ensuring our community members have access to the best information, prevention programs and services.  Students, faculty or staff who feel they are the victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment are strongly encouraged to report those allegations through the university’s established processes.”

There’s currently 355 open Title IX investigations at 257 postsecondary institutions across the country, 83 of which have been filed during 2017 alone.

USF is one of eight Florida institutions with open investigations. FSU, UCF, UF, Miami and now USF have two open investigations while Embry Riddle, Full Sail and Stetson each have one. 

Information about the most recent filing is not public, however, the 2014 case involved a student whose boyfriend reportedly forced himself on her. A few weeks later, she told her boss about the assault since the man worked there as well. The accusation is that her boss, a mandatory reporter, did not present it to the university. When USF did investigate, it was found that there was “no cause” for the allegations due to “insufficient evidence.”

The women accused USF of altering her statements and ignoring inaccuracies in those of others.

Students found in violation of Title IX can face suspension or expulsion from school, according to attorney Sara Kaplan’s website.

If a school is found in violation of Title IX, things are a little more complicated and usually has to do with a resolution agreement.

When Butte College came to a resolution agreement in July, it agreed to make revisions to the college’s Title IX policies and provide training to students and employees.

These are fairly standard requirements, but others can be added such as coordinating the Title IX office with local police. Wittenburg University’s agreement reached in March had this added requirement. Another potential condition could be to create a committee of students to recommend ways to information about students’ rights out, such as in the University of Alaska’s agreement reached in February.

If the violation is severe enough, the college could risk losing some federal funding, according to knowyourix.org.

While the impact of these investigations on USF remains uncertain, results are not likely to be seen for some time.