A controversial U.S. government proposal to change the law that prohibits gender discrimination in education has drawn more than 89,000 public comments, including many from scientists. At issue is the future of Title IX, the 1972 statute that is the primary legal weapon for battling sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct in U.S. academia, Nature writes.
Critics argue that changes proposed by the Department of Education proposed in November would reduce protections for students. The 60-day public-comment period on the government’s plan ends at 11:59 p.m. US Eastern time on 30 January, Nature adds.
“We cannot afford to weaken Title IX regulations if we care about those who experience sexual harassment and sexual violence,” wrote Celia Ford, a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, in a comment at regulations.gov.
“We are keenly aware of the continuing prevalence of sexual harassment in the mathematical sciences,” wrote Ami Radunskaya, a mathematician at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and president of the Association for Women in Mathematics. The proposed changes, she added, “will only make the situation worse,” Nature notes.
The education department’s proposal would redefine sexual harassment from “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the [institution’s] education program or activity.” It would also require accusers to appear at a live hearing and be subject to cross-examination by a representative of the person they are accusing.