This story was originally published as a City Colleges news blog titled “City Colleges of Chicago Celebrates 50 Years of Gender Equity Through Title IX” on June 23, 2022.

 

Fifty years ago, on June 23, 1972, a landmark piece of legislation was enacted as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though just 37 words long, the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has positively impacted work and school culture for half a century.

Bernice Sandler, the “Godmother of Title IX” said, “Title IX is probably the most important law passed for women (and gender equality) in Congress since women obtained the right to vote in 1920.”

As the Title IX District Director at City Colleges of Chicago, I agree with Ms. Sandler. Each day at City Colleges, I use this law to ensure that our learning and work environments are free from sexual violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault—because everyone deserves to feel safe at school and at work.

My motivation stems from personal experience, as I am a survivor of school-based sexual misconduct. As time went on, I found healing through my experiences providing ongoing support to students and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

City Colleges is strongly committed to ensuring our students, employees, and program participants’ learning and working environments are free from discrimination and harassment. We know harassment can take many different forms, from sexual harassment and assault, to domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Ensuring a safe environment means barring discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, or pregnancy status at all levels.

Title IX ensures that all federally-funded educational institutions prohibit discrimination based on the sex of all students and employees participating in their programs and activities. It also bans many aspects of gender inequality that had previously been tolerated or overlooked in education.

In compliance with state and federal laws, City Colleges of Chicago has an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy which defines discrimination and harassment, outlines how to file a discrimination or harassment complaint, and discusses investigation procedures. Further, each of our seven colleges has its own Title IX Coordinator and Title IX Confidential Advisor in each of our Wellness Centers. City Colleges also upholds its responsibility to Title IX while following additional city and state laws that provide guidance on sexual harassment, discrimination, and gender equity. This fall, and continuing into the spring of 2023, City Colleges will begin to offer innovative trainings using eLearning modules for faculty, staff, and students about sexual harassment, with guidance and support from current legislation.

On this 50th anniversary of Title IX, City Colleges of Chicago continues its commitment to building a community of dignity, respect, and tolerance. The EEO/Title IX Office, along with Project S.A.F.E., our districtwide program created to prevent and address gender-based violence, remain diligent at providing innovative online and in-person trainings focusing on reducing sexual discrimination and harassment. City Colleges of Chicago is also committed to equity in athletics and maintains robust sports programs for men and women with a focus on equity.

Today and every day, I am proud to be a part of this ever-evolving 37-word law that forever changed girls’ and women’s sports, college admissions, workplace protections during and after pregnancy, gender equality, academic and vocational programs, teaching, coaching, work environments, and the handling of discrimination and harassment cases.

A Brief History of Title IX

Since Title IX’s inception, legislative reforms, executive actions, and lawsuits have occurred, and Title IX has continued to provide fair and equitable treatment of all sexes in federal institutions like ours through its living and breathing protective decree. Here is a short history of the evolution of Title IX.

1972: The Educational Amendments of 1972 passed, making Title IX a reality. United States Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress and the first woman of color to be elected to the House of Representatives, helped lead the way to equality by being the lead author and sponsor of Title IX.

1980: In a landmark 1980 legal case, female students at Yale University filed the first Title IX case. The Yale students won their case claiming sexual harassment, which constituted gender discrimination and was therefore illegal under Title IX. This pushed Yale University to establish grievance procedures for students who report harassment and led to other institutions of higher education doing the same.

1984: A Title IX setback: the Supreme Court declared that the statue only applied to programs specifically receiving federal funding, rather than across all institutions. Thus, religious institutions not receiving federal funding did not have to comply.

1988: Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, effectively reversing the high court’s 1984 ruling.

1990: The Clery Act was signed into law, later renamed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, which requires colleges and universities to record campus crime statistics and safety policies. These security reports must be disclosed to current and prospective students and employees at a campus.

2001: The Office of Civil Rights issued Title IX Guidance.

2011: Title IX’s “Dear Colleague” letter urged colleges and universities to be more proactive in fighting campus sexual assault.

2013: The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Amendments passed. This federal law provides extensive provisions to improve the criminal justice system’s response to sexual and domestic violence against women. VAWA was reauthorized March 15, 2022 by President Joe Biden.

2015: The United States Department of Education releases a follow-up letter with additional guidelines for Title IX investigators. The new policies require institutions to use preponderance of evidence, or the lowest standard of proof, to determine whether a person accused of sexual assault is guilty.

2016: A joint “Dear Colleague” letter is issued by Departments of Justice and Education addressing equity with regard to a transgender person’s identity (which was withdrawn in February 2017); however, in March 2021, an Executive Order by President Joe Biden guaranteed that the educational environment should be free from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

2017: Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repeals the Obama administration’s 2016 guidance on the treatment of transgender students shortly after taking office. The Education Department under President Donald Trump rescinds the Obama administration’s guidance on campus sexual misconduct.

2020: The United States Department of Education releases new regulations for handling incidents of sexual harassment and assault after a contentious review process. The controversial rules face fierce criticism from women’s rights advocates for lessening institutional responsibility and survivors’ rights.

2021: The Office of Civil Rights published the Notice of Interpretation concluding that discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on gender identity inherently involve treating individuals differently because of their sex. The Department issued this Interpretation to make clear that the Department interprets Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination to encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

2021: The United States Department of Education under President Joe Biden issues a federal notice reaffirming that Title IX protects transgender and nonbinary students from discrimination. The announcement comes in the wake of 31 states taking action to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports programs that correspond with their gender.

2021: The United States Department of Education announces plans to release proposed changes to Title IX regulations for handling allegations of sexual misconduct in April 2022.

2022: The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is reauthorized March 15, 2022 by President Joe Biden.

 

Diane Bailey is the Title IX District Director at City Colleges of Chicago. She works to ensure Title IX compliance in the City Colleges office of Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX. Bailey has a Bachelor of Arts in Organization Management and a Master of Arts in Psychology from Calumet College of St. Joseph. Prior to joining the City Colleges community, Bailey was the Director of Student Activities, interim Dean of Students, and the Title IX Director at her alma mater. She is committed to creating working and learning environments free from harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct.

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