Almost 45 years after President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting gender discrimination in schools that receive federal money, the Trump administration appears ready to slash funding and staffing to the departments charged with enforcing it.
In addition to ensuring equality in areas like college sports, Title IX has also evolved to govern how schools handle incidents of sexual harassment and violence. Today, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights is responsible for investigating claims such as those contained in a federal lawsuit that alleges 52 instances of rape and gang rape perpetrated by 31 Baylor University football players between 2011 and 2014. The office is also responsible for educating schools and coordinating with Title IX representatives at each school.
As the Washington Post reports, however, President Trump's proposed budget for 2018 would limit the OCR's ability to do this work by cutting staff by more than 40 employees as well as funding for things like travel.
The OCR's caseload has increased as awareness of campus sexual assault has grown, and in conjunction with a 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the OCR that informed schools that sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and sexual coercion, among other offenses, constituted sexual harassment under Title IX. According to the OCR's budget request for 2018, in 2009, the department received 11 complaints about sexual violence at colleges. In 2016, there were 177. As of December 31, 2016, there were 360 open cases, with an average age of 549 days.
Also included in the documents is the Administration's acknowledgment that the proposed budget will significantly decrease the office's ability to do its job.
"To address steady increases in the number of complaints received and decreased staffing levels, OCR must make difficult choices, including cutting back on initiating proactive investigations.…
OCR's enforcement staff will be limited in conducting onsite investigations and monitoring, and OCR's ability to achieve greater coordination and communication regarding core activities will be greatly diminished."
This strategy falls in line with the administration's broader view of government, in which they say one thing, and do the other. We are told that civil rights are important, despite making it easier and easier to ignore those being trod upon, or outright discriminating against others under the guise of national security.
The scandal at Baylor University, a nominally Christian institution of higher education, has provided the most glaring example of the need for Title IX protections. The adults in charge, from former head coach Art Briles to former President Ken Starr, among other officials in the athletic department and university administration, turned a blind eye to the women being abused. They have even been accused of actively discouraging victims from coming forward, and of interfering in the university's Title IX procedures. The OCR's investigation into some of those complaints is ongoing.
Now a man who was recorded saying that you could "grab" a woman "by the pussy" is proposing to drastically limit the government's ability to enforce and educate in this area, making it difficult to accomplish even "core activities," while at the same time a spokesperson for the administration tells the Post, "The Trump administration has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans."