What Is . . . Title IX?

On June 23, 1972, Title IX was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Fifty years later and many still ask: What IS Title IX?

Most people think Title IX applies only to sports or sexual misconduct, but those are only 2 of the 10 key areas addressed by the law with regard to creating an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of one’s sex/gender.

10 Key Areas of Title IX: Access to Higher Education, Athletic Participation, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math & Science, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing & Technology, and Minors.

Title IX also serves as a powerful tool for combating violence, requiring colleges and universities (as well as K–12 institutions) receiving federal funding to combat gender-based violence and harassment to ensure that all students have equal access to education. That access, while including opportunities for sports participation and other sports-related benefits, also includes creating an environment free from sexual violence, hazing, bullying and cyberbullying, the ability for pregnant and parenting students and student-athletes to continue and complete their education, and building a community where everyone will thrive.

By prohibiting schools from treating students differently, Title IX allows all students, regardless of gender identity or expression to equally take advantage of any course of study regardless of gender stereotypes about traditionally “male” or “female” coursework or professions.

In spite of Title IX’s success in opening doors to women and girls, the playing field is far from level. As a Division III school, Wesleyan does not give scholarships; but this is one area that is still unequal. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education estimates that men receive $133 million more per year than women do in athletic scholarships. But we keep moving forward in all aspects of Title IX, including how the key areas intersect.

At Wesleyan, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others work diligently to listen and evaluate and update every policy and procedure such that we balance remaining compliant with the ever-changing landscape and the needs of our community. We have revised policies, created rubrics for understanding, addressed concerns regarding live hearings, created foundation training for all employees, and so much more. . . .

Still, we continue to walk on quicksand. We stay focused on compliance, while also working to prevent and respond to harm in all forms and understanding/meeting the ever-changing needs and expectations of the Wesleyan community.

My role, in part, is working on discriminatory harassment, gender and identity-based bias, and sexual misconduct. Each day I come to campus with one goal: to work together to do better today than we did yesterday. While it is not an easy task, by any means, I have been continually inspired by the empathy and impassioned advocacy of the students and my colleagues, and their tireless efforts to create a community of care and progress.

—Debbie Colucci (she/her/hers)
Wesleyan Assistant Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Coordinator

To learn more about how laws and policies have (and continue to) evolve around sexual violence prevention and response at Wesleyan, please visit the websites of the Office for Equity & Inclusion, the Office of Support, Healing, Activism, and Prevention Education (SHAPE), and the student-focused Sexual Misconduct at Wesleyan: Support and Resources website.