The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently made announcements that signal the government’s continued focus on ensuring that colleges and universities comply with Title IX's prohibition against sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The NSF issued a statement on January 25, 2016, regarding its commitment to preventing sexual harassment and eradicating gender-based discrimination in science. The NSF noted that it is the nation's primary funder of science and engineering research and that receipt of NSF funding requires institutional compliance with Title IX. The NSF stated that it may terminate funding to institutions found to be out of compliance with Title IX, if the institutions do not voluntarily come into compliance. The NSF will coordinate its Title IX compliance efforts with the DOJ and U.S. Department of Education.

The DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics announced the results of its pilot campus climate survey on January 20, 2016. The DOJ's pilot survey was administered at nine colleges and universities, and completed by more than 23,000 students. The data showed that over the course of their college careers, between 13 and 51 percent of fourth-year female students had experienced a sexual assault. The survey also collected data regarding reported sexual assaults of male students and transgender students; use of confidential resources; reporting rates to campus officials and law enforcement; and the impact of sexual assaults on academic performance. The DOJ's report provides tools for educational institutions including a sample survey and best practices for ensuring a valid and reliable campus climate survey. 

These recent actions by the NSF and DOJ underscore the government's coordinated approach to Title IX enforcement. Educational institutions are advised to share the results of the DOJ's campus climate survey with individuals on campus tasked with developing and implementing climate surveys. Educational institutions also should provide targeted Title IX training to science, engineering, mathematics, and technology departments at their institutions to ensure continued compliance with NSF requirements.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr's Higher Education Group have experience advising colleges and universities on compliance with overlapping obligations under Title IX, VAWA, and the Clery Act. The Group regularly conducts investigations, provides compliance advice and training, and audits policies and procedures when Title IX issues arise on campus. Ballard attorneys also frequently advise educational institutions on compliance with federal, state, and local laws.


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