University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Expanding the Scope: Title IX and Sexual Harassment

For its first 30 years, Title IX was mostly known for the opportunities it opened up for female athletes. Around 2000, the law began to cover the prevention of sexual harassment.

Button courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

For its first 30 years, Title IX was mostly known for the opportunities it opened up for female athletes. Then, around 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance that said the law also covers the need to prevent sexual harassment.

In 2011, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education (DOE) released a letter to colleges and universities saying that Title IX also prohibits sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence, thereby mandating that educational institutions take immediate steps to prevent those problems. The letter triggered universities to put compliance measures into place.

Among undergraduate students, 26.4 percent of females and 6.8 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault; 5.8 percent experience stalking, according to RAINN, the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence.

The harassment guidelines under Title IX are still evolving, and have now become political footballs. During the Trump administration, the Obama-era directives were rescinded and replaced by a new set of regulations that included due process rights for people accused of sexual harassment and assault. In March 2021, President Biden asked the DOE to further review the revised regulations, an effort which is ongoing.

At the U of M, the office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) handles both staff and student complaints on sexual harassment and related issues. “EOAA responds to concerns of sex- and other discrimination,” says Tina Marisam, U of M Title IX director and EOAA coordinator. “We use responsive processes that are effective in stopping discrimination and promoting accountability, while meeting the individualized needs of those who report they have experienced harm. We focus on building fairness, impartiality, transparency, and thoughtfulness around the experiences of individuals with all identities into our response.”

Other U of M resources include the Aurora Center, one of the country’s oldest college sexual assault and gender-based-violence programs. “We uphold the spirit of Title IX, which is designed so that all genders can have equitable access and opportunity to an education,” says Katie Eichele, director of the center, which was founded in 1986.

The center offers help to victim survivors and those concerned about someone who has experienced a sexual assault.

It also educates the U of M community about positive prevention practices, which include consent and healthy relationships.

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