While I support the new administration’s efforts to broaden the groups that are given protection under Title IX, I believe that the best course of action for Secretary Cardona is a measured and bi-partisan effort of revision that neither maintains the previous administrations strict stance against inclusion and victim’s rights nor reverts back to what the Obama administration had in place. As we see in the readings in this week’s module and in the many recent news stories about Title IX, sex and gender are two terms that have regularly shifting and misunderstood or not commonly agreed upon definitions. I believe that in order to get anything done Secretary Cardona will need to first establish a working definition of each term that is agreed upon by the majority of involved parties. He would then be best served by writing into any future letters, recommendations, policies, or orders, a regular review and update of the definitions. This acknowledgment of the shifting of societal and scientific understanding of sex and gender will allow education institutions to move forward with a set schedule in mind for possible shifts in policy. It is my belief, based on our previous study of leadership, that much of resistance to change is discomfort with uncertainty. Building in a schedule for regular review of base definitions will help all involved to feel confidant in adopting new policy or procedure and will help them to get used to the idea that this is an area that requires regular updates and change. By adopting neither of the previous administrations policies out-right this also furthers the idea that Title IX must constantly make progress and that the Department of Education is willing and able to take on responsibility for improving on itself. As Laura Dunn said in an interview for NPR, consensus is possible, it simply requires work and the will to achieve it (Smith, 2021).

Title IX enforcement will continue to be a mix of “Dear Colleague” letters, regulations, and published policy interpretation. Until the legislative branch of our government chooses to enact a new law that either broadens or more clearly defines what rights individuals have to remain free of discrimination, on the basis of sex, while in educational settings that are funded by the federal government there is no better way to ensure the protection of our students and stakeholders. The OCR and the Department of Education will continue to attempt to get in front of issues but will have to remain largely reactionary as our court system narrows or redefines what our current laws mean. The issue of transgender individuals is currently at the fore of many legal battles, particularly concerning their participation in athletics, once it is settled it is likely that we will see another issue arise to take its place. What of students who don’t want to be given a gender label? I fully expect to see higher education having to deal more directly with gendered bathrooms. I know of many institutions that have designated one gender neutral bathroom on each of their campuses and called this enough. I expect, and hope, that education will see more direct guidance about the availability and accessibility of gender neutral spaces. I also believe that higher education will have to address our reliance on data, including data on sex and gender, in a world that no longer offers only a binary choice. How will we rank institutions or decide on funding if many of our current schemes are reliant upon a strict binary split for clean data?

Moving forward, education leaders will have to be able to live and work within a world where the only constant is that the rule of today will likely not work tomorrow. We will need to learn to find an anchor in our personal frameworks, a reliance on those who have studied and understand the laws of our system, and a belief that our education system is regularly working towards truly equal treatment of all students under the law.

Smith, T. (March 10, 2021). Biden Begins Process To Undo Trump Administration’s Title IX Rules. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/10/975645192/biden-begins-process-to-undo-trump-administrations-title-ix-rules