AWIS believes that institutions have a responsibility to provide a safe, equitable, and harassment-free educational setting so that women can achieve their full potential. According to Title IX at 50, a report by the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education of which AWIS is a member, “The promise of Title IX was to expand opportunity by ending discrimination and expanding career choices for all students regardless of sex. Unfortunately, the social stereotypes and stigmas that our culture continues to reinforce have not fulfilled this promise.” Institutions need to move beyond legal compliance and instead address the campus cultures and biases that allow violations to continue.
"I had an antisemitic physics professor who scheduled our exams on Rosh Hashanah, then when we complained, he moved it to 10 days later (Yom Kippur). He'd been a professor for ~30 years and there are a lot of Jewish students at my school, so he definitely knew what he was doing." - AWIS Member
“While pregnant, I was expected to do procedures in the lab that are not permitted during pregnancy. Accommodations were not provided despite reasonable requests. Postpartum access to a clean pumping space was not provided. It's been a miserable experience, but what made me the saddest has been the graduate students who commented that (after watching my experience) they are waiting to have children until they leave the lab or academia.” - AWIS Member
"A senior professor asked me and other graduate students to go on dates. He said inappropriate and suggestive things. He also made unwanted sexual advances including physically touching a postdoc in his lab. It hurt her relationship with her partner and contributed to her leaving science. We filed a complaint in 2019. It was a very frustrating experience. We had hours of meetings and emails with the Title IX office but were told they couldn't do anything. There have been no consequences to his actions." - AWIS Member
"I was part of a group of graduate students and postdocs who filed a title IX complaint against a professor in 2019. It was empowering to come together, but it was a long, protracted pursuit that wore down all of us, endangered our careers, and did not end in any meaningful outcome in terms of restrictions or discipline of the professor." - AWIS Member
We collected many more member experiences. The common themes were that victims often do not bother filing complaints due to fear of retaliation, assumptions that no action will be taken, or they just don’t have the energy to fight. When victims do report, their complaints are frequently ignored – allowing harassers to continue abusing them or others. Victims report dealing with emotional trauma years later.
You can help change this!
- Share these stories with policymakers and organization leaders and ask them to support Title IX protections.
- Donate to support AWIS’s Title IX advocacy and education efforts.
- Become an AWIS member to share your story and strengthen our community.
- Share your organization’s best practices in preventing harassment, enforcing consequences, and supporting victims.
Keep reading to learn more.
What is Title IX?
Title IX was passed on June 23, 1972, by the United States Congress for the purpose of prohibiting sex discrimination in any education setting or other activity that receives funding from government assistance. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Over the years, Title IX has provided protection and justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault, students that are pregnant and parenting, members of the LGBTQ+ community, teachers, coaches, and athletes.
Read about the history of Title IX, why it’s still relevant, and recommendations for institutions and policymakers in Title IX at 50 a report by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE). AWIS is a member of NCWGE.
Progress and Setbacks
Title IX helped increase the rates of women in higher education. Since 1979, the number of women in higher education has exceeded the number of men. The number of girls participating in high school sports skyrocketed. (nces.ed.gov) Yet, reports of sexual harassment and discrimination have also increased. This may be partly due to the reporting requirements (and the consequences of noncompliance) designed to prevent sexual harassment. Watch this AWIS webinar replay to learn more about the reporting requirements.
One common misconception about Title IX is that it only applies to female students, but it applies to all individuals and protects them from any sex-based discrimination, violence, or harassment. Harassment experienced by transgender students and other members of the LGBTQ+ community has increased partly due to 2017 rollbacks that increased the evidentiary standard, narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, and limited the legal responsibility of institutions. (vox.com)
On June 15, 2022, AWIS signed a letter asking President Biden to issue new Title IX rules increasing protections for LGBTQI+ students, pregnant and parenting students, and victims of harassment. On June 23, 2022, the Department of Education released the proposed rule changes it is recommending. The proposed changes will be open for public comment for 60 days.
On September 12, AWIS signed a letter to the Department of Education supporting comments from the National Women’s Law Center.
Impacts on the Individual
Biased educators and policies hinder the learning and advancement of women and girls. Discrimination also poses a danger to a student’s general well-being and contributes to the drop-out rates in schools (National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education).
Impacts on the Organization
If an organization has a history of discrimination or reputation for condoning bad behavior, it will fail to attract and retain talented faculty and students. In addition, any organization failing to report or act upon an alleged violation stands to lose federal funding.
How to report violations of Title IX
Victims have the right to present their case including witnesses and other evidence. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination – barring any other sources of conflict – to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Each party will be notified when an outcome has been reached, and they may file an appeal if they wish to do so.
Other information to keep in mind:
- Title IX complaints are typically filed via an online complaint form (www.ocrcas.ed.gov) or via email (OCR@ed.gov).
- Contact information for both yourself and the facility you are reporting must be included in your report.
- Include a description of the complaint, whether you have tried to resolve this complaint previously, and your wishes for how the facility can handle the violation.
- Institutions are prohibited from retaliation.