AAUP Investigates Title IX Abuses on College Campuses


aaup-logo-2_0The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has released the draft of an upcoming report titled, “The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX.” Read the report online here. As stated by the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX was adopted in 1972 and last revised in April 2015.

Written by a joint sub-committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, the 2016 AAUP report finds “significant problems with the interpretation and enforcement of Title IX by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education and by university administrators.”

In an email summary sent to AAUP members in March 2016, the AAUP describes its findings, detailing the use and abuse of Title IX provisions on college campuses. Watching Adams has added bold emphasis in areas especially relevant to Adams State University:

We found that overly broad definitions of “hostile environment” and regulations conflating sexual misconduct (including assault) with sexual harassment based on speech have resulted in violations of academic freedom through the punishment of protected speech by faculty in their teaching, research, and extramural speech.

We also found that due process and faculty governance are not adequately protected in Title IX enforcement. Universities, under pressure from the OCR, have adopted lowered standards of proof that conflict with due process protections of those accused of misconduct. And university administrators have increasingly acted precipitously in taking punitive measures without respect for faculty rights of academic freedom, due process, or shared governance processes.

While successful resolutions of Title IX lawsuits are often represented as unqualified victories for gender equality, we found that the current interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of Title IX has sometimes compromised the realization of meaningful educational goals that lead to sexually safe campuses. In the context of increasingly “corporatized” universities, administrators may take actions that avoid OCR investigations and private lawsuits but that do not significantly improve gender equity.

Finally, we found that the current interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of Title IX can actually exacerbate inequities on campus. Recent student activism protesting institutionalized racial biases highlights the need to ensure that Title IX enforcement initiatives do not perpetuate race-based biases in the criminal justice system, which disproportionately affect men who are racial minorities.

The AAUP’s webpage on this report further summarizes its findings as follows:

Specifically, this report identifies the following areas as threats to the academic freedom essential to teaching and research, extramural speech, and robust faculty governance:

– The failure to make meaningful distinctions between conduct and speech or otherwise distinguish between hostile environment sexual harassment and sexual assault.

– The use of overly broad definitions of hostile environment to take punitive employment measures against faculty for protected speech in teaching, research, and extramural speech.

– The tendency to treat academic discussion of sex and sexuality as contributing to a hostile environment.

– The adoption of lower evidentiary standards in sexual harassment hearings, i.e. the “preponderance of evidence” instead of the “clear and convincing” standard.

– The increasing corporatization of the university, which has framed and influenced universities’ implementation of Title IX.

– The failure to address gender inequality within a broader assessment of its relationship to race, class, sexuality, disability, and other dimensions of social inequalities.

The AAUP states that a final version of this report is due later this year.