Title IX ‘crushing insult’ to victims, prof argues

A professor at the University of Utah recently argued that the Title IX investigatory system on college campuses is a “crushing insult” to women who have been assaulted.

Nicholas Wolfinger, who teaches family studies, endured a Title IX investigation in 2016 after an anonymous colleague took issue with a story of how the academic proposed to his now ex-wife at a strip club, and reported him for “gender discrimination.”

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The professor was eventually exonerated of all allegations, but the experience made Wolfinger realize that many Title IX cases have absolutely “nothing to do with assault or sexual harassment,” but instead deal with mildly offensive or disagreeable rhetoric.

In a recent article for The Martin Center, Wolfinger condemns the current Title IX apparatus for investigating complaints that are only tangentially related to the perceived oppression of women with the very same framework as it would for allegations of rape and assault.

The conflation of “frivolous or trumped up” charges with complaints of rape and sexual assault downplays serious crimes against women and siphons university resources away from serious cases that should be investigated, Wolfinger argues.

According to Wolfinger, such allegations “trivialize the actual victims of sexual harassment and assault, often young people who may have been subjected to gruesome assaults or stalking so invasive that it interferes with the victim’s ability to pursue a college education.”

“Frivolous Title IX cases are a crushing insult to the unacceptably large number of women who have been victimized by their peers in higher education,” he continues, while drawing a parallel with the #MeToo movement. “No one deserves that.”

In an interview with Campus Reform, Wolfinger argued that the Title IX system may indeed have a role on campus, especially with respect to behavior that falls short of criminal harassment.

He argues, however, that the entire system may be irreparably “compromised” since the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter issued by the Obama administration. Even though the Department of Education has rescinded the letter, Wolfinger says that it may not help since Title IX has “taken on a life of its own.”

“Dysfunctional practices have become institutionalized,” he told Campus Reform. “Title IX officers are just too used to pursuing non-offenses like the Brandeis kissers. They’re now supported in these endeavors by a cottage industry comprised of consultants, conferences, and training materials.”

[RELATED: Prof: Title IX harms both students and teachers]

“It’ll be hard to detach the system from all this institutional baggage,” he said.

Additionally, Wolfinger predicts that an overhaul of the system may be beneficial.

An overhaul might “mean that rape and potty mouth weren’t handled under the same rubric by the same campus bureaucrats,” he said, adding that “this would end the constant stream of trivial complaints that I feel are such an insult to the victims of rape and harassment.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen