Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Title IX?
Title IX is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law stating: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." It’s our only mechanism for filing civil complaints about sexual and interpersonal violence at the university.
In addition, Title IX prohibits educational institutions that receive any form of federal financial assistance from discrimination on the basis of sex in admissions, financial aid, recreational services, health services, college residential life programs, counseling services, classroom assignments, grading, employment, and recruitment. Title IX has been instrumental in the advancement of women in education, especially in the realm of financial aid and athletics. The requirement for equality in athletics, including athletic scholarships, has given rise to a massive increase in both the number of women athletes recruited and the amount of financial aid offered to them. Instead of decreasing the amount of aid offered to men,universities have offered additional spots and funds to women to match the preexisting quantities offered to men.
What does it mean that you want to “Reform Title IX”?
This does NOT mean we want to change the Title IX law, which is a vital mechanism for ensuring equality for people of all genders and we are extremely grateful for. Rather, we want to 1) make sure that the way Princeton implements Title IX adjudication for sexual/interpersonal violence is consistent, fair, and transparent for everyone involved in the process but especially survivors, and 2) acknowledge that Title IX is necessary but insufficient to transform Princeton’s culture, reduce sexual/interpersonal violence, and meet survivors’ needs.
What are the big problems you’re trying to address?
Every year, roughly 20% of campus has reported experiencing sexual violence in the past year (WeSpeakSurveys). This number is even higher for students with marginalized identities. These rates are a constant, epidemic threat. We recognize that Princeton has gotten a lot better over time on these issues, but because the rates of violence remain so high it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done. Students have expressed that 1) campus culture still enables violence and unhealthy behaviors, 2) that the university claims the process of reporting assault to Title IX is transparent, but in practice: survivors are re-traumatized, given contradictory information, experience inconsistent processes, often face power imbalances in navigating the process compared to defendants, and have no true recourse when they feel the process has miscarried justice, and 3) that there is a lack of access to resources for students who want to heal through processes other than filing a Title IX claim, such as mediation/transitional justice or counseling. Our demands are attempting to address these problems.
Why is this happening now and who is involved?
Survivors and other campus members have been working on these issues and having these conversations with individual administrators for years. We are angry, in pain, and we can’t take it anymore.
Our movement is only the most recent action on this issue, a part of a long tradition led by survivors, and particularly QTPOC survivors who live at the margin of identity and privilege here.
Princeton had an external review conducted by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Federal Government and was found in violation of Title IX in 2014. As a result, Princeton agreed to enact change in its practice of Title IX, including but not limited to (according to the US Department of Education): “Publicize and provide a comprehensive education and prevention program that educates the university community (staff and students) about the school’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault/violence, as well as the support services and resources available to students.” We feel as though their efforts in this have been insufficient and have not met the standards demanded by the OCR of the United States Federal Government.
So on May 7th starting at 10am, over 100 Princeton students gathered at 10am to sit in the yard in front of Nassau Hall in protest until the University administration commits to reforming the way Princeton implements Title IX adjudication at this University. We will be here until the University commits takes tangible action to meet our demands and make their approach survivor-centric and preventative.
We affirm those who choose to avoid this space and protest because of the triggering nature of this kind of movement, and emphasize that their very existence and perseverance is an act of resistance.
Have your demands remained the same throughout the protest?
The demands have remained fundamentally the same, but have evolved as the protest has grown, more voices have been heard and research has been done -- contacting legal experts, scholars, and experts in sexual and interpersonal violence. Our second edition of demands has retracted the call for firing faculty and acknowledged that the first fair step would be subjecting anyone in a leadership position to external review on a regular basis.
In addition, we have added a demand calling on the university to continue resisting the Department of Education’s proposed rollbacks on Title IX protections under DeVos. We want to be extremely clear: we support the current Title IX federal law as it stands. We just want the promise of Title IX to be fulfilled here.
How has the University responded?
The administration has failed to meet the deadlines for response they agreed to, failed to release responses that acknowledge there is a problem or address the majority of our demands, and has yet to engage with us in person.
They just posted on their website that they will be initiating external review--a step in the right direction, but this wasn’t communicated to us directly. External review is also only one of our ideas and they have yet to engage. Furthermore they expect external review to be done by the Provost, who is internal to the university and implicated in covering up sexual misconduct in the past (see Daily Princetonian).
The university has continuously refused our request to have a conversation with President Eisgruber or his cabinet. A few students were invited today--through Dean Dunne, not directly from the administration--to an off-the record meeting in Butler PDR with the Student-Faculty Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention. Not only does this meeting not include President Eisgruber as requested, and this Student-Faculty Committee has no power over the implementation of the vast majority of our demands--but the email articulated that we would not be able to discuss the demands at the meeting and is only the latest example of the university’s effort to silence us and deny free speech.
Has the University been helpful on this issue in the past?
Yes! University faculty have been improving the fight against sexual/interpersonal violence for years, for instance in the Women*s and LGBT center. Many survivors have had healing experiences with the work of people in Title IX processes, the SHARE office, and other spaces. Further, the Princeton administration recently criticized the Department of Education’s proposed rollbacks on Title IX protections.
But that does not mean that the administration is doing nearly enough. Many survivors have horrible experiences with these avenues, especially the Title IX office. That’s the whole point--it’s grossly inconsistent. And again, 20% of the student body experiences sexual violence every year. This is violence on a devastating scale, and it must be combated by reforming processes that respond to violence, and instituting preventive mechanisms that end sexual violence.
What does this gathering demand to solve these problems? How should the process be more transparent?
Though the university claims filing a Title IX claim is a transparent process, in practice survivors have very different––and often very re-traumatizing––experiences. We need to have a clear idea of what types of evidence are collected, what types of actions might result in which sanctions, and what the appeals process looks like. We need to make sure that claimants and defendants always have equal opportunities to review evidence, call witnesses, and understand the process--and that survivors are not alone up against wealthy defendants with powerful lawyers. To do this, we need to ensure that qualified professionals, such as social workers on permanent staff, are there to guide survivors through the process. Furthermore, to make sure that every case is treated with the same professionalism and care, we need an external body to consistently review the university’s compliance with Title IX.
Are there any other major flaws with the way Princeton implements Title IX procedures?
Many survivors of color do not even feel comfortable going to Title IX because they do not trust the institution and are not represented by survivor resources to help advise them and cope with the trauma of filing, such as SHARE peers or CPS counselors. Furthermore, when cases involve both sexual violence and racial, transphobic, or other violence--the evidence about the two inexorable claims is segregated into two different offices. For example, evidence of a racist statement during an assault currently cannot be used as evidence in the Title IX hearing. We demand that survivor spaces are representative, and that avenues for justice allow intersectional violence to be used as evidence in Title IX cases.
What about restorative justice, what does this demand mean?
Survivors may want to pursue alternative pathways to justice outside filing a Title IX complaint, because the process can be retraumatizing and/or they don’t wish their perpetrator to experience punitive consequences. Right now, there is no clear alternative for this kind of accountability. Restorative justice is a mediated process, led by professionals, which prioritizes healing, protection, and accountability. Bringing together restorative justice facilitators, the responsible party, the harmed party, community members, and supporting parties (those who are able to support the individuals involved), restorative justice is a collaborative process that asks how harmed parties can be restored. Restorative justice in response to sexual and interpersonal violence has been implemented at other schools, such as Brown University, Stanford University, Skidmore University, The College of New Jersey, and the University of Kentucky. At Princeton, these types of programs could potentially be housed in the Ombuds Office, as an expansion of SHARE or CPS, or as an entirely new office––regardless, proper implementation will require the hiring of qualified practitioners of restorative justice and formalization of the program.
How would you respond to concerns about due process?
The university uses the nationwide standard of evidence for all civil proceedings: preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Students may be sanctioned as a result of this process, but it is not criminal and they won’t go to jail. We know that, in addition, there is a roughly 2% (FBI statistics)-10% (localized studies cited by the National Violence Resource Center) false accusation rate for crimes of sexual violence--the lowest of any crime. False accusations are therefore extremely rare. Those that do exist, however, are important to consider because they disproportionately affect black and brown men.
Regardless, proposed reforms help due process! When the process is more transparent, the penalties more consistent and clear, this also helps a potentially innocent defendant. Implementing transitional justice options will also allow for accountability for situations where the survivor does not want to see their assaulter punished, but given access to counseling.
How else do your demands support survivors outside the Title IX process?
We demand that there be increased funding for psychological services for survivors whether or not they file a claim, and make sure that survivor-spaces (such as SHARE, CPS, etc.) are representative of the intersectional identities of the student body. The university already has plans to expand CPS and McCosh, so this is a perfect opportunity to make sure that there are counselors specifically trained in trauma and are diverse in racial, socioeconomic, gender, and other identities. We also need funds to help students seek off-campus assistance, including covering transportation and co-pays.
How do your demands change campus culture?
Right now, campus culture enables violence by allowing predatory behavior to be normalized and unchecked. We demand that there be more and improved training for faculty and student leaders and freshmen; and we demand that the Gender and Sexuality Studies program is departmentalized (which would allow greater freedom in hiring and more resources for vital research into reducing violence). Education and training are preventative. We hope to reduce the number of assaults to zero.
Why did you add the additional demand concerning Secretary DeVos?
We know that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is planning to roll back the protections of Title IX. We want the University to commit to resisting these proposed rollbacks and continuing to fight against gender-based violence regardless of the status of the law.
Won’t your pledge to abstain from Annual Giving take money away from financial aid for low income students?
No. The university has committed to giving a certain amount of need-based financial aid. Although they may use Alumni Giving funds to pay for this, if they don’t receive the donations they have already committed to meeting these financial aid payments. Annual Giving, as unrestricted funds, is actually not set aside in any amounts to support financial aid. This is the primary avenue they advertise to alumni, but the money raised also goes towards facilities, study breaks, salaries, and basically anything the university has not properly budgeted for during the year. The main purpose of Annual Giving pledges, unless you are giving thousands of dollars, is to have a large alumni participation rate which ensures the university is highly ranked.