A cake celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Title IX. (Courtesy of Flickr)
Despite popular misconceptions, Title IX guarantees far more than equity for college athletes. It is, in fact, a guarantee that each student should receive an education free from sexual violence and harassment. Know Your IX, a new campaign aiming to “empower students to stop sexual violence,” intends to clarify widespread misunderstanding of Title IX and make clear what the statute provides and how to file a complaint when it is violated.
The campaign couldn’t come at a more appropriate time, as colleges across the country—from Swarthmore, Dartmouth and UNC Chapel Hill to UC Berkeley, Occidental, USC and UC Boulder—are coming under increased scrutiny and facing discrimination complaints for violations of Title IX and the Clery Act. In fact, a nationwide survey by Students Active for Ending Rape found that only 9.8 percent of students would give their college’s sexual violence policies an A—half of the respondents gave their school a C or lower.
Though the students behind Know Your IX emphasize that they are not lawyers, they strive to provide actionable firsthand knowledge of how to initiate anti-violence activism campaigns and how to challenge administrative reticence.
Dana Bolger, a rising senior at Amherst College and one of Know Your IX’s founders and organizers, told The Nation that the campaign is informed by personal experiences with violence, and frequently trying processes many face when attempting to report that violence to campus administrators.
“It’s sort of been a domino effect—I go to Amherst College and last summer we were thinking of filing a complaint with the Department of Education against our college, so I reached out to Alexandra Brodsky who had filed a complaint against Yale the year before. As more and more students are filing complaints on their colleges, we’re becoming connected online, through social media, so that’s how a lot of the organizing for Know Your IX happened,” she said.
As Bolger explained, Know Your IX aims to reach two broad audiences—first, students who may lack an awareness of what Title IX requires, and second, those students who are already working on their campuses to change policies and practices, for whom various resources have been amassed, including a “guide to building a campus movement”; information on obtaining legal guidance and building support networks; advice on confronting racism, homophobia and media misrepresentation; tips on how to “harness the media for your movement” and suggestions for “Dealing With” a litany of challenges a survivor and/or allied activist may face.
“Feminism and the movement against sexual violence has historically been a very white, upper-middle-class movement; we’ve tried to remain very conscious of that in developing our resources. Our campaign itself, all of these resources are written by survivors, women of color, men. Making this a really inclusive movement that responds to a variety of experiences is really important,” said Bolger.
Know Your IX is part of an increasingly broad network of student campaigns to change administrative policies and practices. Indeed, a petition asking Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hold schools that don’t protect their students accountable by enforcing Title IX has already garnered more than 150,000 signatures.
Though universities and colleges vary in their size, type and support networks available (women’s or gender centers, counseling services, bystander intervention programs), a student’s basic civil right to an education free from sexual violence and harassment should be a guarantee no matter what resources a school has available. By undertaking this education-based campaign to arm survivor-activists and allies with information to help them advocate for themselves, file complaints and transform their schools, Know Your IX is playing a critical role in the enduring struggle to raise up the voices of those who, for too long, have been targeted, stigmatized and isolated.