Dear Biden Administration: It’s Long Past Time to Fix Title IX

Polis: Center for Politics
4 min readJun 24, 2024

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Nicole Rosenzweig (PPS ‘24)

Nicole Rosenzweig (PPS ‘24)
Nicole Rosenzweig (PPS ‘24)

Thirteen percent of graduate and undergraduate students experience sexual assault through physical force or inability to consent, according to a recent report by the Association of American Universities. Furthermore, nearly one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Despite this, the federal government has consistently turned a blind eye to the issue of campus sexual assault, particularly with regard to the enforcement of Title IX policies. As a female college student, I am counting on the Biden Administration to swiftly reverse the Trump Administration’s Title IX sexual misconduct policy changes.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. The federal government passed Title IX to make educational opportunities available to women in the late 20th century, but the application of this policy has since evolved. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the legal interpretation of Title IX to encompass protections against sexual assault in education programs. Since then, each presidential administration has interpreted and applied Title IX differently.

In August 2020, the Trump Administration implemented sweeping Title IX policy changes that made it significantly more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to attain justice through university student conduct processes. The new policy requires universities to hold live disciplinary hearings and allow cross-examination of witnesses in all sexual misconduct cases. In these hearings, advisors (who are often lawyers) represent the complainant and respondent. In accordance with these due process requirements, many schools have adopted a higher burden of proof for Title IX cases. These policy changes also narrowed the definition of sexual harassment to solely include misconduct which is deemed “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” and further limited the scope of Title IX to apply to circumstances in the United States, not instances that occur abroad. Taken together, these Trump Administration policies make an already tedious and taxing student conduct process even more burdensome for survivors of sexual assault who choose to report.

The Trump Administration’s Title IX changes are yet another attempt to shield perpetrators of sexual assault, at the expense of survivors who continue to be cast aside by university processes. By requiring students who have experienced sexual assault to endure live hearings and face their abusers in doing so, this policy unnecessarily burdens survivors of sexual assault. Already, only about 2.5 percent of sexual assaults result in a conviction in the U.S. court system. Among female college students, only 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. For these reasons, among others, it is essential for universities to provide a path to justice for survivors who do not wish to go through the legal system. Yet, the Trump Administration’s recent Title IX changes have made it more difficult for survivors to attain any semblance of justice through university student conduct processes.

The Biden Administration has expressed a desire to reverse Trump’s Title IX policy, but the Administration has continually delayed this process. In June 2021, President Biden’s Department of Education began rewriting Title IX campus sexual misconduct regulations. The latest policy roadmap announced that new Title IX guidelines would be released next month, but the May 2023 timeline is merely ‘suggested’ and is subject to further delays. Although federal policy change typically moves slowly, it is unacceptable to continue to delay necessary changes when doing so substantially affects people’s lives. The Biden Administration should encourage universities to apply Title IX policies in more survivor-centric ways — for instance, by providing additional routes to justice beyond what Title IX requires — while the Administration works to achieve long-term policy change.

Some people, particularly conservatives, have defended the Trump Administration’s Title IX changes, citing the protection of students’ due process rights. However, these new regulations re-traumatize survivors and largely exclude evidence of perpetrators’ wrongdoing. In fact, those accused of sexual assault can keep their confessions off the record and strategically choose not to undergo cross-examination. These rules have very little to do with due process and almost everything to do with stacking the cards against survivors of sexual violence.

Under the guise of due process, the Trump Administration fundamentally undermined universities’ abilities to handle sexual misconduct cases in a trauma-informed, survivor-centric manner. The Biden Administration should reverse the 2020 Title IX policy changes without further delay to give survivors of sexual violence a fair chance to seek justice in the aftermath of irreversible harm.

Nicole Rosenzweig (PPS ‘24) is from Rye Brook, New York and a Public Policy and Political Science Undergraduate at Duke University. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ’23 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.

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