House Republicans Are Jeopardizing the Rights of Women and LGBTQ+ Students

On April 19, the Biden administration released new Title IX guidelines that increase protections for assault victims, LGBTQ+ students, and pregnant students by providing schools more flexibility in how they conduct investigations.

Almost three months later, on July 10, House Republicans passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution—House Joint Resolution 165—that would block the Biden administration’s Title IX revisions and revert them back to the restrictive Trump-era Title IX guidelines.

Protect More Than Women’s Bodies on Campus

Research shows that among college students, women report more mental health issues than men. The work to protect women’s bodies is so important and still needed—but it is also important that we take steps to proactively protect the mental health of our female students. 

The year I went up for tenure, I had a series of unexpected and traumatic experiences. I know I am not the only faculty to experience a mental health breakdown at a high-stress and highly important time in my academic career. In fact, mental health problems in academia are under-discussed and relatively common. 

Nine Need-to-Know Changes From the New Title IX Rules

The United States Department of Education released its much-anticipated amendments to the existing Title IX regulations—which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. 

The amendments make substantial changes to the existing Title IX regulations. Experts anticipate these new changes will result in an increase in the number of Title IX complaints, since they broaden the protections of Title IX. The Education Department is requiring all schools implement the new 2024 regulations by Aug. 1. 

Here are nine significant changes to Title IX that interested parties in higher education should know.

New Title IX Rules Offer ‘Comprehensive Coverage’ for LGBTQ+ Students and Sexual Violence Survivors

Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and sexual violence survivors are largely applauding the Department of Education’s newly released federal regulations to protect the rights of these groups in schools, though they also expressed reservations about the lack of clear protections for transgender athletes. Unveiled on Friday, the final rule under Title IX includes provisions that strengthen the rights of sexual violence survivors during investigations and of LGBTQ+ individuals to experience school in a way that aligns with their gender identity. Title IX is a historic civil rights law preventing federally funded academic institutions from practicing sex discrimination. 

“We are glad that the Biden administration finally fulfilled its promise to student survivors to return Title IX to its original intent of protecting their civil rights in the aftermath of sexual violence.”

Why the ERA Is Needed—Even With the 14th Amendment

For years, critics have claimed that women don’t need the Equal Rights Amendment because the Supreme Court has secured women’s rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

At the time it was ratified in the 19th century, no one thought that the 14th Amendment protected women; its purpose was to end slavery. Thanks to pioneering lawsuits by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1970s, women did gain a measure of equal rights under the 14th Amendment, but lawyers know that those victories were limited.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

Date Rape: The Story of an Epidemic and Those Who Deny It

Date rape is one of the most underreported crimes on college campuses. So much silence surrounds this kind of crime that many women are not even aware that they have been raped. In 1985, Ms. conducted a three-year study among college-aged women to learn more about their experiences.

(For more ground-breaking stories like this, order 50 YEARS OF Ms.: THE BEST OF THE PATHFINDING MAGAZINE THAT IGNITED A REVOLUTION (Alfred A. Knopf)—a collection of the most audacious, norm-breaking coverage Ms. has published.)

Sexual Assault Accusers Can Be Sued for Defamation. This Will Discourage Survivors from Coming Forward.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has allowed Saifullah Kahn, a student accused of sexual assault, to sue his accuser for defamation, relying on a Connecticut Supreme Court opinion finding that the accuser was not entitled to absolute immunity for statements she made during a Title IX proceeding.

This decision will have a chilling effect on sexual assault survivors’ willingness to come forward, as they are now vulnerable to defamation and other civil suits, which are increasingly used to silence and intimidate victims. But the ruling also could impact how schools conduct future Title IX proceedings, and influence proposed new Title IX regulations, which the Biden administration has been working on since 2020.

U.S. Rape Culture Is Sidelining and Silencing Future Female Leaders

The recent CDC report on the health of U.S. high school students was sharply contextualized by chief medical officer Dr. Deborah Houry’s headline-grabbing remark at the report’s release: “America’s teen girls are engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence and trauma.”

Rape culture is defined in part by its tolerance of subjection of women to a continuum of threats. Rape culture is also characterized by sexism, which involves normalized denigration and dismissal of women. Failure to address these conditions for young girls creates more hurdles on their paths to success and the possibility of public leadership—where the ranks of women leaders continue to be proportionally much smaller than they are for men.

Dream Schools Can Be a Nightmare—But a New Data Tool Empowers Student Survivors

To fight for change effectively, we must listen to students and survivors nationwide and provide them with critical information on how campuses handle sexual assault. We built the Campus Accountability Map and Tool (CAMT) to do just that.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to addressing campus sexual assault, but the CAMT centralizes data to shift focus to one that keeps students first in mind and an institution’s bottom line and reputation last.