The University of Maryland could potentially begin issuing an annual fee of $34 to their students in order to cover the costs of the University’s struggling Title IX office. Experts, including the National Center for Campus Public Safety, and the Clery Center for Security on Campus, have declared this fee to be highly uncommon. The fee was proposed by the Student Government Association on September 28th is awaiting approval from the Committee for Review of Students Fees, University of Maryland’s President Wallace Loh and his cabinet, as well as the University System of Maryland Board before it can be officially implemented in the next fall semester.
Catherine Carroll is the University of Maryland’s Title IX Coordinator, a position required for all universities receiving federal funding under Title IX. Carroll reported that their office is currently unable to fully provide the services that are mandated under Title IX.
As of now, their annual budget stands at $1 million with a staff comprised of four investigators for a student body of 38,000 students. According to Carroll, the Title IX office conducted 112 investigations and received a total of 148 reports of sexual assault within the past year. It is required that all colleges and universities promptly address and conduct an investigation within 60 days after the reporting period. The Title IX office at the University of Maryland has been taking an average of 140 business days to conduct their investigations.
If passed, the annual student fee would enable the Title IX office to hire two more investigators, a deputy and a sexual assault prevention program manager. The office would be able to increase their budget by $900,000 a year and take the steps necessary to ensure all students have equal access to an education free from discrimination, assault and harassment.
The proposed fee has generated mixed reactions amongst students, experts and activists. According to Buzzfeed, the Student Government Associations’ Vice President, A.J. Puitt remarked, “By putting in a proposal to add an additional fee, that’s placing another finical burden on students. It’s not something I’m excited about, but it gets us to fully funding the office in a short amount of time.”
Campus sexual assault has received increased public attention over the past few years. Schools and universities can be held legally accountable if they do not comply with the law and fail to address or handle assault and discrimination cases. This being said, Title IX offices, services and coordinators play a vital role in successfully addressing the epidemic of campus sexual assault.
In response to Title IX cases and funding across the country, The Feminist Majority Foundation has released a multi-year report, discussing the importance of Title IX Coordinators in implementing Title IX to end sex discrimination in federally funded education programs from pre-school through graduate school. The report, Reinvigorating the Role of the Title IX Coordinator: A Requirement and Resource describes how initial federal efforts to support Title IX Coordinators had largely disappeared.