Campuses are the frontlines of a take-no-prisoners war over Title IX, enacted in 1972 to prohibit sex discrimination in federally funded schools.
In a January 15 op-ed for Inside Higher Education, Brett Sokolow — president of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) — advised: “About 20 to 25 percent of the (new Title IX) regulations are potentially very detrimental to the cause of sex and gender equity in education, and we will need… to work within those requirements, challenge them in court or find clever work-arounds.”
What is the conflict?
In 2011, the Department of Education changed Title IX to assert gender equity. “Sexual harassment” was redefined to “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” — those accused were denied due process. Sexual discussion and conduct on campus were regulated at the expense of free speech and justice.
On May 6, 2020, new rules from the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights moved Title IX closer to its original intent. The definition of “sexual harassment” narrowed, and due process returned.
But hostile administrations may not allow the policies to function. ATIXA exemplifies the resistance. It is the main source of national training and legal interpretation for Title IX, with the mission of “gender equity in education.”
ATIXA collides with one specific rule: Campuses must post “all materials used to train… any person who facilitates an informal resolution process.” Transparency may seem to be common sense, but many accused students have had to sue to access their colleges’ guidelines and material on their own hearings.
The College Fix reported on ATIXA’s reaction to the transparency requirement. On May 11, at a webinar, Sokolow told more than 4,200 participants to publish only the title — not the content — of training materials. Why? “Materials from ATIXA … are proprietary and copyrighted.”
“Those materials cannot be posted… because it will violate our copyright. People … are not permitted to have a copy,” he observed, which can be reviewed only in an administrator’s office. Objections were to be sent to ATIXA, which would make “the materials available” under “comfortable” circumstances.
Colleges that comply with the DOE, he stated, would “get a letter from us kindly asking to make sure” the materials “are removed.” The College Fix observed, “The implication is clear: ATIXA will sue colleges for following a legally binding regulation.”
The Education Department swiftly responded. The College Fix related, “OCR wrote a blog post … reiterating that Title IX training materials, among other ‘important information,’ must be posted on schools’ websites — no exceptions.”
The OCR declared that its regulations do “not permit a school to choose whether to post the training materials or offer a public inspection option. … If a school’s current training materials are copyrighted or otherwise protected as proprietary business information (for example, by an outside consultant), the school still must comply with the Title IX Rule.”
ATIXA has since granted permission to use its materials. But if Solokow’s webinar session had not been publicized, would ATIXA’s obstruction have been addressed so quickly, or at all?
There is deep-state resistance to the new Title IX. “Deep State” refers to largely unseen but influential bureaucrats who work behind the scenes to thwart policies they dislike; it includes quasi-private organizations, like ATIXA, that facilitate the bureaucracies. The stakes for the Title IX-industrial complex are high. Its power, status and wealth depend on the regulations created by the Education Department in 2011.
ATIXA is not alone in campus resistance. In January, the National Women’s Law Center sued the DOE over Title IX changes. ATIXA co-signed a March 25, 2020 letter in which the NWLC called to suspend the then-preliminary regulations. In May, the NWLC brought suit…again.
The war for free speech and due process on campus is a war against established bureaucracies. By comparison, Title IX clashes in Congress will seem like a clean fight because it was out in the open. Obstruction on campus will largely consist of clever work-arounds and plausible excuses for why implementation is not possible, whether or not it is