Proposed changes to Title IX could increase inclusivity at Dartmouth
The Biden administration’s proposed changes to Title IX increase protection against harassment for gender and identity expression.
On June 23 — the 50th anniversary of Title IX — the U.S. Department of Education opened the public comment period for the Biden administration’s proposed changes to Title IX. According to the Department of Education, the proposed changes are meant to ensure that no student faces sex-based harassment, violence or discrimination under Title IX, conditions weakened under regulations imposed by the Trump administration. Following the public comment period and agency responses to those comments, a final rule will be released.
According to the assistant vice president for equity and compliance and Title IX coordinator Kristi Clemens, the Trump administration released a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2018. She said that after a public comment period, which elicited over 125,000 comments, a final rule was released in May of 2020. Institutions then had until August of 2020 to comply with new regulations, which are the regulations currently in place. Clemens estimates that in around a year, the Department of Education will release final guidelines with a period of time allotted to implement updated regulations.
“The Trump regulations really narrowed the scope of what could be considered sexual harassment,” Clemens said. “Gender identity and expression were not considered part of the 2020 Title IX regulations, but they are expressly and intentionally included in this 2022 NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking].”
According to history professor Annelise Orleck, the Biden administration’s proposed changes, such as accommodating transgender students to use the restrooms that align with their gender and ensuring they are addressed by their correct pronouns are a “recognition of the moment we are in.” Orleck pointed out that since 2018, hundreds of anti-gay, trans targeted laws have been passed all across the country.
Orleck noted that although the proposed changes do not address whether transgender students will be eligible to participate in sports, she said she believes that transgender athletes should have the right to practice and compete with everyone else.
“I’d like to see as far as school competitions go that there be no limitations on trans athletic participation, because there are a handful of trans athletes who have done very well, but it’s not wildly disproportionate,” Orleck said. “This suggests that there is no special advantage they have and there are also plenty of trans athletes who have not medaled or dominated in the sports they choose to participate in.”
Esheta Balamreddy ’23 said she believes that most of the campus buildings she has been in have gender inclusive restrooms. Balamreddy added that she does not see what the “big issue” is for those with reservations on gender inclusive restrooms.
“When I came to Dartmouth from India, it was a big cultural change,” Balamreddy said. “When people ask you for your pronouns, I was sort of perplexed in the beginning, but now I got the hang of things.”
Clemens said that she is working with the College’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator and facilities staff to ensure that gender inclusive bathrooms are accessible all over campus. The goal is to have at least one gender inclusive bathroom in each building, Clemens explained.
Balamreddy also said that has noticed some organizations on campus making efforts to be inclusive — she noted that Women in Business, a student group on campus, encourages all self-identifying women to join the group.
Orleck said she believes one “really important” element of the Biden administration’s changes to Title IX policy is the elimination of the requirement for live hearings for survivors.
“In regards to in-person trials, the issue is trauma, new trauma to the victim,” Orleck said. “For many victims, it’s very traumatizing, as well as frightening, to have in-person face-offs with the person they’re accusing.”
Clemens explained that because the Biden administration’s proposed rule does not require live hearings, the decision to hold these will once again be left to the institutions.
Another reversal of the Trump administration’s changes to Title IX is that anyone who is not a confidential resource now becomes a responsible employee, who is required to report knowledge of any sexual harassment or assault. Clemens explained that at Dartmouth, staff were never prevented from acting as responsible employees. This means that nothing would change in that regard, while other schools might experience “a big shift.”
Clemens added that institutions that are not in compliance with up to date Title IX policies are subject to investigation and could potentially lose federal funding.
“We need to be really attentive and really precise in understanding these regulations so that we don’t jeopardize our federal funding,” Clemens said. “It’s not just about us as an institution; It’s about you all as students, and anyone with federal aid. We would never put that in jeopardy.”