Title IX about more than college athletics

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Katie Holmes/Staff

What is Title IX? Whenever people, even professors, talk about Title IX, they talk about sports. Title IX has done wonderful things in the world of women’s sports without a doubt. Still, most people think Title IX is only for sports. In reality, Title IX is much broader than that.

Title IX says all students, regardless of their gender, have a right to an educational experience free of gender discrimination. For a lot people, even a lot of folks who identify as women, “gender discrimination” can be an abstract concept. Looking deeper, however, it becomes clear that a lot of the sexual harassment and even sexual assault people face are manifestations of power relationships that underlie the gender discrimination Title IX is written to prevent. Sexual assault affects people of all genders. Title IX protects us all and works to ensure that everyone has a fair shot at education without sexual harassment and assault.

 Title IX contains provisions to reduce the institutional trauma survivors of assault deal with on a daily basis. Sexual assault is a nationwide problem; college sexual assault, which is in no way unique to UC Berkeley, requires unique considerations Title IX seeks to address. For example, students may be forced to encounter their assailants in class, in living situations or in campus clubs. Title IX requires that universities take measures to prevent this, such as facilitating class and dorm reassignments and issuing stay-away orders. Additionally, Title IX forbids universities from pressuring or coercing survivors to leave the school because of the effect of the trauma on their academic work. Many here at UC Berkeley simply don’t know they are entitled to these things and continue to attend classes with assailants or slip into academic decline thinking there’s nothing anyone can do to help. That isn’t the case.

CalSERVE’s Know Your IX campaign is unique in that it is based purely on education. There is no petition; there are no marches; there isn’t an election day. The push for change seems small, especially compared with the large-scale campaigns CalSERVE has run and endorsed in the past, such as Proposition 30, IGNITE and even 6000 in Solidarity, which focused on institutional change at a statewide level. In fact, the opposite it true: This CalSERVE campaign is even bigger. This isn’t a revolution on a national stage, an action on the state level or even a campus recommendation. Know Your IX is a revolution inside the minds of every UC Berkeley student of any gender who comes into contact with it. Every time a community member sees a Know Your IX table on Sproul, sees a Know Your IX media online or overhears a conversation about Know Your IX in class, it lights a spark within that student and creates a base of knowledge that wasn’t there before. Opening the minds of every student to the rights under Title IX is how this campaign is won; opening in the minds of communities is how every campaign is won.

Last summer, a few brave survivors traveled to Sacramento to ask the California State Legislature for an audit of the university’s Title IX office. Our stories were met not only with compassion and concern but also with action: The audit, which includes not only UC Berkeley but also one other UC campus and two CSU campuses, was passed unanimously and with priority status. Hannah Beth Jackson, a senator from Santa Barbara and an original author of the Clery Act (a campus crime-reporting and information law), shook her head in anger as she explained that, 30 years ago, she fought to prevent the very thing sitting before her now: university inaction in matters of sexual assault.

The time has come to turn anger into action and into education about how to use the tools legislators such as Jackson have given us in the form of laws such as Clery and Title IX. As cliche is as it may sound, knowledge is power. Title IX is only as powerful as the students who give it life. To demand your rights, you first must know your rights. Education is once again the tool of our empowerment.

Alicia Arman is a campus mobilizing coordinator for CalSERVE.

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