Accountability Now: Title IX is not taken seriously enough on campuses

Do you know what Title IX is? Unfortunately, most college students do not. Title IX is a part of the Education Amendments of 1972, federal legislation regarding higher education, which prohibits sexual discrimination on campuses. This includes sexual harassment and violence, and is not gender-exclusive.

Now, read this article about the rising problems involving sexual harassment on college campuses. Colleges are blatantly ignoring legislation, and because most students aren’t even aware that this legislation exists, it goes unnoticed.

The first problem is that many students don’t know how to define sexual harassment/discrimination. Letters like the Gullet Report, an email sent to members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at USC describing the life of a “Cocksman,” clearly violates sexual discrimination laws. This repugnant letter, describing in detail the ratings of women and how they should be treated based on the size of their “gullet,” (you really don’t want to know) completely objectifies women; furthermore, because it is representative of a fraternity chapter, it gives Kappa Sigma a bad reputation.

The consequences of their actions are a startling example of a violation of Title IX. Like most scandals similar to this, the main objective of the clean up was to deflect and deter, rather than punish and set an example for the boys’ actions. In an effort to pass the buck, USC’s Interfraternity Council denounced the boys actions, but decided to use the letter as a “reminder to students about the positive and negative powers of social media.” Kappa Sigma National announced that they will pursue the matter “as far as they can,” but resolved that the email may have been “an attempt by another organization to sully Kappa Sigma’s name.” The USC chapter of Kappa Sigma is still going strong.

The next problem is the intimidation that comes with reporting. This, like many other cases, was washed away an left inadequately accounted for. Because these actions are not taken seriously, this makes victims reluctant to come forward. Most of these cases involve women, making it harder for men to report.

The numbers are clear. According to Campus Safety Magazine, more than half of sexual assault victims tell no one of their experience. Between 20 and 25 percent of women will have experience a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while they’re in college while around 4 percent of men have reported being “forced against their will” (One in Four USA). Of these assaults, only around 16 percent result in prison sentences. There are many more numbers like this, none of which exactly bode to a healthy environment for victims.

The third, and perhaps the most important, problem is the sense of entitlement among men and the cultural norms set that fosters this type of environment. Our culture permits men to feel superior to women, allows men to think rape is a joke and sends out the message that the girl (or boy) is “asking for it.” Instead of holding the perpetrator accountable, the victim is accused of not wearing enough clothes or being too drunk. This translates to the media’s standards and subsequently to the standards of the college. This makes legislation like Title IX extremely ineffective because it is seldom taken seriously.

What’s more is that cases involving Title IX violations are rarely covered in the media. Sure, there are some cases that are given news coverage, but none of them get any juice or have had any real affect on decreasing the number of unreported cases. These cases are almost treated as “a dime a dozen”; the general idea is “it’s a shame, but there isn’t too much we can do about it, boys will be boys.” With media coverage comes a push for legislative action. Because in sexual assault cases on college campuses, the court of public opinion is almost just as important as the court of law. If the public opinion is not taken seriously by college officials—or if the public opinion foster’s rape culture among campuses—then there is no expectation of this legislation to actually make an impact, for legal action to occur or for the victims to get the justice they deserve.

To solve this problem, not only does the media need to give priority coverage to sexual assault cases on college campuses, but college officials need to take accountability for what happens on their campuses. This means not just sweeping cases under the rug, not making assumptions about the victims, and taking seriously the guidelines laid out by Title IX. In addition, students need to made aware of Title IX so they know exactly what to expect of their college. In this situation, awareness is key on all fronts.

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