Andrew Tran
Staff Writer

U of I Urbana-Champaign is under fire for protecting the sexual misconduct of professors. Credit: ABC7 Chicago

There have been major shake-ups at the University of Illinois over its interpretations of Title IX and its effects on students. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that passed under the Education Amendments of 1972. The law protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Under Title IX, schools are legally required to respond to and remedy hostile educational environments and failure to do so is a violation of this law.

In August 2019, NPR Illinois and a non-profit outlet ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network discovered the university’s repeated intent to protect the reputations of professors accused of sexual misconduct. The two groups discovered that faculty accused of sexual misconduct will be moved to paid-administrative leave and banned from their department until the university can formulate a separation contract that will extend the paid-leave. After this process, the accused professor would resign, which would allow them to find another job in another university without their sexual misconduct on record. The university also doesn’t release the reasonings for the professor’s departure which sweeps this whole sexual misconduct affair under the rug. That is appalling to hear if there are multiple reports of sexual misconduct filed on the same professor.

The study has been cited by the University of Illinois as a violation of Title IX in which the reporters of NPR and ProPublica cannot protect the confidentiality of those who spoke up about their sexual misconduct experiences due to the rules of Title IX. The university cited each of these writers as “responsible employees” who had obligations to report their findings to the university because the school owns NPR Illinois. However, the writers do not want to and they wrote a letter to the university requesting an exemption to the rule. They feel that their prohibition of receiving confidential information as, “antithetical to freedom of the press and editorial independence”. Also, their counseling services have an exemption to Title IX rules. When this story broke out, several experts about Title IX, anti-discrimination laws, federal press organizations, and advocates have spoken out against the University of Illinois its policy about reporting sexual misconduct. This pressure caused by these groups of people has caused the University of Illinois to immediately update its policy last Thursday. On November 14, 2019, the university has prohibited faculty-student relationships, requiring background checks for sexual misconduct for hiring, and banning separation agreements that withhold any sexual-misconduct findings of departing employees.

With all this information about sexual misconduct being swept under the rug by the university, I found it appalling. I understand that disclosing information about someone’s sexual misconduct will definitely hurt their chances in finding a job. However, every person should be allowed to talk about their experiences and remain anonymous. I feel that the University of Illinois has good intentions by trying to keep its students safe by reporting all instances of sexual misconduct to the university; however, personal stories are confidential. The people who step forward to discuss their sexual misconduct experiences do so because they want to prevent what they experienced from happening to someone else. It’s not easy to share their stories because it is so painful for them to remember and have to relive their traumatic experiences. This is why the respondents in the survey have to be kept confidential. The University of Illinois does not have the right to obstruct its writers from reporting the truth about the sexual misconduct cases. If journalists can’t hold the university accountable, then who will?