Biden proposes new Title IX rules on its 50th anniversary

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The BYU Title IX Office is located in 1085 WSC. The Title IX Office provides resources for students who are victims of sexual assault and students involved in sexual assault cases. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Morrison)

President Biden proposed a new set of rules on Thursday for Title IX that is intended to replace a set of guidelines issued during the Trump administration. The proposal came on the 50th anniversary of the bill being passed.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation’s students — no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love — can learn, grow, and thrive in school,” education secretary Miguel Cardona said.

The bill, enacted in 1972, requires schools across the country to provide equal opportunities for men and women in sports and in the classroom.

The new rules would explicitly protect LGBTQ students under Title IX. The 1972 law does not directly address the topic but Biden’s proposal would clarify the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This new addition is likely to receive backlash from conservatives.

BYU’s Title IX office has transformed over the years to provide support and resources for issues such as sexual misconduct, discrimination and equal opportunity.

Title IX’s impact on BYU athletics

When Title IX passed in 1972, BYU did not offer women’s athletic scholarships. The school broke its male-athletes-only scholarships in 1974 by awarding athletic scholarships to females for the first time.

“It has had an enormous impact especially in the field of athletics,” Title IX deputy Abigail Morrison said. “We make sure that we are in compliance with the way programs are funded and with the way scholarships are distributed.”

Title IX’s compliance in athletics is assessed by comparing the total men’s program to the total women’s programs. This assessment occurs often through coordination between BYU’s Title IX Office and BYU Athletics administration.

With Biden’s newly proposed rules, it would be clear that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX,” according to the department. This announcement could have key implications for athletics as the department says they will release more specific rules for transgender participation.

“As we look to the next 50 years, I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” Biden said.

BYU must give athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation for each sex. Title IX also requires schools to provide equal funding for practice times, equipment, traveling fees, coaching, etc.

Sexual misconduct prevention

Sexual misconduct is another important part of BYU’s Title IX office‘s goal to protect students.

The office provides BYU students with resources and ensures students are protected and supported if they are dealing with any kind of sexual misconduct. The office dedicates time and resources to not only responding to and investigating these claims, but preventing them.

Morrison, who is in charge of training and education for the office, said educating BYU students about consent and setting and respecting boundaries is an important goal of Title IX.

Abigail Morrison
Abigail Morrison is a Deputy Title IX Coordinator who oversees training and education for the office. (BYU)

Only 41% of BYU students surveyed in 2017 said they would know where to tell a friend to go for help if they confided in them that they were sexually assaulted. Since this report, the office has worked to gain more visibility on campus through social media campaigns, increase of on-campus events and including information in newsletters and other widely spread campus communications.

“We really welcome any kind of data that can help us inform our decision making,” Morrison said. “We’re always trying to improve how we reach students.”

Morrison said the office worked to make information more relatable and accessible to make students aware of the resources available in the Title IX office. The office identified places students were already gathered such as social media channels, to help target them and spread information efficiently.

“It’s important if a student even knows vaguely in their mind, ‘Hey, I think Title IX has something to do with sexual harassment or sexual assault and this thing just happened to my roommate, I’ll let them know about this thing,'” Morrison said. “Someone may confide something in you at some point and we want you to know that there are services here on campus. There are people who want to help.”

In March 2022 another climate survey was released. The report said students are better informed and have fewer misconceptions about sexual assault compared to 2017, are better informed about resources and more students believe their case would be taken seriously if they were sexually assaulted.  

“I’m grateful to see that so many students recognize the efforts we are making to ensure victims of sexual assault have access to helpful and effective resources,” Title IX coordinator Tiffany Turley said in the news release. “Whether that be through our office, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocacy Services, CAPS or other areas, the university has tremendous resources to assist victims.”

Although the report did show improvement, there is still room for growth as it showed many students are unaware of Title IX office services, many survivors do not report incidents of unwanted sexual assault to any formal source of assistance, and many students remain confused about the Title IX reporting structure including the university’s amnesty statement.

To continue to raise awareness about the resources available, BYU’s office also puts on events advocating for Title IX related issues during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness month as well as pop-up booths around campus throughout the year.

“Consent is the number one thing that we’re always talking about,” Morrison said.

The office can help students request accommodations if they are struggling with their mental health due to a traumatic sexual experience and also covers pregnant and parenting rights.

“This work is intense, it can be emotionally draining,” Morrison said. “The reason why I’m excited to be here is because I think it’s really important work that really really matters.”

Sexual misconduct reporting

One important resource separate from the Title IX office is the Confidential Sexual Assault Survivor Advocates who help BYU students who have been raped, sexually assaulted, experienced domestic violence, stalking or other relationship violence. 

The program was first introduced in January of 2017 as a result of several complaints surrounding inadequate treatment for sexual misconduct at BYU. Following these complaints, the university came up with 23 solutions to improve the culture.

These advocates help give students support and information to make informed choices about their circumstances. Students can report and receive help with confidentiality. 

Students can submit a report, make an anonymous call or speak to a Title IX coordinator.

“There is so much misinformation and guilt and shame and everything else associated with sexual assault,” lead advocate Lisa M. Leavitt said. “It’s extremely important, first of all, that they have a place that they can come and get information and support and help and resources in a confidential way.”

Although there has been lots of progress improving sexual misconduct at BYU, Leavitt said the university still has a ways to go.

“While there has been a ton of education and outreach both in our office and Title IX, it’s the kind of resource that people don’t really want to know until they need us,” Leavitt said. “We have such a naive population. “

The office helps students get information as well as medical and academic support and counseling as well as provide rape kits or legal systems.

With Biden’s proposed rule changes, the definition of sexual harassment would cover a wider range of misconduct. Schools would be required to address any misconduct which creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct arises off campus.

If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault please contact one of the on-campus offices below:

Sexual Assault Survivor Advocacy Services 1500 Wilkinson Center 
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 1500 Wilkinson Center 
Women’s Services and Resources 3326 Wilkinson Center

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