2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Since June 1972, when the first Asian-American congresswoman, Patsy Mink (D-HI), authored and sponsored Title IX and it successfully passed, gender-based discrimination has no longer been overlooked or tolerated at federally dunded institutions of higher education across the country.
University Title IX Coordinator Maria Doucettperry, J.D. answers questions about Title IX, the University's Title IX office and the importance of federal protections like this act. As Title IX coordinator, Doucettperry is responsible for ensuring campuswide Title IX compliance and for programming initiatives through strategic oversight. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX works to create a campus environment that results in student success, employee advancement and access to opportunities based on individual merit, ability and potential without fear of discrimination.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a Federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender in any educational institution that receives federal funding. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 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.”
In its beginning, Title IX was known for its impact on Athletics because it was successfully used to advance women’s sports. This resulted in many people assuming that this was Title IX’s only function. Then in the early 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination applied to sports and sexual harassment. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued guidelines on Sexual Harassment that eventually caused a shift in Title IX’s identity. Now Title IX is mostly associated with sexual assault and sexual harassment. Although it does operate to prohibit and provide guidance on dealing with sexual harassment, that does not define the essence of Title IX. Title IX is, and always will be, an equity law, and like other equity laws, Title IX should be employed in any forum in which it is needed. Title IX should be utilized to its full potential and not limited merely because of its narrow application in the past. Fortunately, we are seeing its scope broaden to meet current needs. For example, today’s Title IX is applicable in cases concerning gender identity and sexual orientation, making it an essential tool as we encounter unlawful discrimination and harassment of our LGBTQ+ community members.
What does the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX do on the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus?
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX (EO/TIX) works to ensure that campus community members can pursue an education or work and advance in employment on the basis of merit, ability, and potential without fear of discrimination. Our goal and efforts are dedicated to ensuring that “Every Member of the Pack (is) Treated with Dignity & Respect.” To this end, our mission expands to all civil rights matters. Thus, in addition to Title IX, we enforce Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and a host of other state and federal Civil Rights Laws.
What resources does the office provide for students?
The office provides a number of custom resources for students and employees. What that means is that the solution often varies with the need. We investigate allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment, host training events, and workshops, issue No Contact Directives, facilitate disability and religious accommodations in the workplace, enforce disability accommodations in the classroom, facilitate academic or workplace modifications, and generally implement supportive actions and remedies as appropriate. In addition to Title IX Investigators and Equal Opportunity Specialists, our Team includes a Social Services Coordinator, a Case Manager, and two Social Work Interns who are all dedicated to providing resources to our campus community.
What have important eras or time periods in the history of Title IX been (both on the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus or nationwide)?
Title IX has been in effect for 50 years; a lot has happened during that time. One of its most significant changes just happened fairly recently. In 2020, there was a comprehensive overhaul to the regulations that implement Title IX. Moreover, while the language of Title IX didn’t change, the way it is implemented on our campus and on campuses throughout the nation did. Since then, our campus has taken a dual approach to address sexual harassment and assault. Thus, while we have one policy, we have two processes to ensure that we not only follow the letter of the law but that we provide the broadest protection and resources to our campus community. This was necessary because, in many ways, the 2020 changes narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and the University’s jurisdiction in Title IX cases. In response to the community’s concerns for safety, the Nevada System of Higher Education and the University of Nevada, Reno implemented a dual system to ensure that there were no gaps in our policies that would expose our community members to harm.
Are there any important events in this history of Title IX on the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus?
Title IX is a federal law, so most of its important events happen at the Federal level. Locally, we work to ensure that the University remains in compliance with those federal mandates. Thus, this is less of an “event” and more of a dedicated and continuous effort.
How has Title IX affected or impacted the lives of women on the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus?
If we are looking on our campus for Title IX’s impact on women specifically, we should probably look to athletics. Moreover, in athletics, the University consistently reviews our program to ensure that intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective University enrollments. Additionally, we monitor scholarships, recruitment opportunities, etc., to provide our students with an equitable intercollegiate sports experience. Our Title IX Athletics reviews have led to the recent implementation of a Title IX Athletics Review Team, a meal program for women athletes, and the creation and renovation of facilities utilized by our Women Intercollegiate Sports Teams. Beyond athletics, it is a little more difficult to highlight Title IX’s impact specifically on women since Title IX works to eradicate all discrimination on the basis of sex or gender and is not limited to discrimination against women.
What has changed about the lives of college student since the passage of Title IX in 1972?
This is a big question with a simple answer, “Everything.” I think the lives of college students today are vastly different from those of students in 1972 because the world has changed so much since then. If we were to look only at what Title IX touches, and remember, as I mentioned earlier, even that has changed over the years, I think that there are two monumental differences: 1) Women earn more degrees than men, and 2) Students who don’t identify in traditional manners are accepted and are thriving in today’s college environment. Of course, these are broad statements that admittedly over-generalize these concepts and thus are not true in every situation; but that said, most accounts since the 1980s or early 1990s indicate that women in America have out-paced men in earning undergraduate degrees. Likewise, the LGBTQ+ population, a population that was largely unseen in the 1970s, is visible and graduating at unprecedented rates from colleges and universities throughout the country every day. I believe much of this can be attributed to the enactment and implementation of Title IX and the resulting shift in University culture because of it.
Why is Title IX important?
Title IX is important because there is still much work to do.
Although we have seen tremendous advances over the last 50 years, equity still eludes us as a country. Thus, we cannot put away our tools; instead, we must sharpen every tool in our tool belt, Title IX, Title VI, Title VII, the ADA, etc., and stand ready to use them whenever and wherever necessary. We must look for ways to teach all members of our educational communities the value of treating all people with dignity and respect, regardless of sex and gender, because tools like Title IX are only effective in the educational realm, but the need for this value transcends the educational setting. The workforce of our broader communities demonstrates this. We just said women outearn males with respect to college degrees, yet notwithstanding education, “the great equalizer,” women still make less money than men, even when working the same jobs. The same often holds true for individuals identifying with the LGBTQ+ population. These wage gaps and difficulties only increase if the woman or LGBTQ+ individual is a racial minority or individual with a disability. Thus, if we are going to make a difference, we must focus on teaching equity and not just enforcing Title IX that way when we enter arenas where Title IX doesn’t apply, people will act in accordance with what they have been taught, i.e., all people should be treated equitably.
How long has the Title IX office been on the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus?
In its present form, EO/TIX has been in existence since around 2011.
Is there any other information that you feel is important to include about Title IX?
I would just emphasize the broad scope of our office. In addition to addressing concerns involving discrimination and sexual harassment, and providing DACA, and immigration related resources, EO/TIX assists with religious accommodations and reasonable accommodations for employees with qualifying disabilities. EO/TIX also provides training and various workshops for students, employees, and student organizations. For more information, please call the Equal Opportunity and Title IX office at (775) 784-1547, or visit our website.