Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which was enacted 48 years ago, prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions.

Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of gender discrimination that are prohibited by Title IX, including when such incidents occur off-campus or involve people who are not students. The Clery Act, enacted in 1990, is a federal law requiring United States colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

In the last decade, feminist activists have advanced the argument that the entrenched “rape culture” on college campuses constitutes a form of sex discrimination because it deprives women of equal access to education and that colleges have an affirmative duty to put an end to it. The Obama Administration issued guidance documents in 2011 and 2014 that advised schools to ramp up investigations of misconduct and warned that failure to do so could bring serious consequences. The federal government took one step in 2013 with an update to VAWA that requires colleges receiving federal aid to report annually to the government the number of assaults on their campuses, and to have programs on rape awareness and systems to assist victims.

Nationwide, one in four women is sexually assaulted while in college.

San Diego State University and UC San Diego both developed comprehensive programs to prevent sexual violence, sexual assault, or rape and provide police/legal, medical, and counseling services when incidents are reported. SDSU TALKS and UC San Diego’s CARE Program have been assisting students with greater help since the Obama Administration’s 2011 and 2014 guidelines were implemented.

In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education, with support from the Trump Administration, issued a 2,000-page document of regulations that purportedly rescinds the guidelines established during the Obama Administration. The new regulations are to be implemented by August 14, 2020. According to those who have read the document, colleges are required to hold live hearings during which accusers and the accused can be cross-examined to challenge their credibility. Readers indicate that the accused of sexual violence seems to have more rights than the victim who has to present a preponderance of proof. To be investigated by campus police, the sexual misconduct must have occurred at a school-sanctioned activity.

In a recent Newsweek article, CEO Kim Churches reported that her organization, the American Association of University Women, is fully committed to stopping the rules from ever taking effect and advocating for legal protections that will actually ensure an education free from gender discrimination for all. We all need to fight back against this harmful change by writing to the editor of your local newspaper and other media outlets—as well as to our legislators.

Anne Hoiberg, Board President, Women’s Museum of California 

A writer, speaker and research psychologist, Anne has written and presented extensively on women’s health, women in the military, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, health promotion, workman’s compensation cost containment, stress related disease and role of military in society.