What is This Title IX Business?

You may have heard the phrase “Title IX” tossed around campus — it sounds big, it sounds important, but it also sounds vaguely like something that should be left to the tweed-adorning professors of yore. Well it is important, and it is meant to protect you as students!

Title IX was first enacted in 1972 nationwide by the federal government in an effort to eliminate sex and gender discrimination from education. However, the long and short of it is that this was widely interpreted as “have women’s sports.”

In 2011, federally funded educational institutions were further advised to reduce barriers to education for women, in part, by addressing issues related to dating violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination. The University of Oregon, as a federal institution, honors Title IX and works to reduce the impact of gender discrimination on your college education. One of the ways the university does this is by mandating all staff and faculty to report any Title IX incidents that they hear about to the university, including sexual assault, gender based harassment, intimate partner or relationship violence, stalking, gender bullying, and gender discrimination.

Sexual assault on college campuses, an all too frequent occurrence, is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. However, as millennials, this may be the first time we’ve participated in these discussions, and some of us might not even be clear on what constitutes sexual assault. The UO SAFE website defines sexual assault as, “unwanted sexual penetration” or “nonconsensual personal contact of a sexual nature.” These definitions may not clearly portray what sexual assault actually looks like, for instance: too many drinks to properly give consent, when a trusted friend suddenly takes what they feel is “theirs,” or when someone decides in the heat of the moment that this is not what they wanted and withdraws their consent — only to be ignored. Make no mistake, these are instances of sexual assault. These experiences deserve to be voiced and responded to by your campus community.

Furthermore, sexual harassment, assault, and gender discrimination are not exclusively female experiences. Male-identified, female-identified, as well as transgender, genderqueer, and agender students experience harassment, bullying, and discrimination based on their gender identity. Perhaps classmates or teammates call you homophobic slurs or constantly imply you are not masculine enough. Perhaps another Graduate Employee at your campus job constantly makes sexist jokes or sexually inappropriate comments. If it’s weighing heavy on your mind, it is impacting your right to an accessible education.

So, what happens when these incidents are reported to the university? Perhaps you opened up to a professor or an RA about a sexual assault, and they are mandated reporters. This information will be passed along to the Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services here on campus, where advocates work to meet your needs. They will reach out to you, and you can allow them to outline resources for you, let them walk you through the entire process — or you can tell them to, “go way and leave me alone.” The level of support you want or don’t want is up to you, but this protocol is in place so that you know what options are available to you.

Options include but are not limited to:

  • Anonymous reporting (if the incident has not already been reported)
  • Implementing a no-contact order with the perpetrator
  • Academic accommodations if a class is feeling too overwhelming
  • Connections to legal support

Don’t want the university to know what happened? Here are ways to seek support and maintain confidentiality:

Regardless of the choices you make regarding a sexual assault experience, please know that support is nearby.

Kendall Thornton

Doctoral Intern