Title IX: Roles and Responsibilities
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (hereinafter Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has implementing regulations to ensure that educational programs that receive NSF funds are free of gender discrimination and harassment (45 C.F.R. § 618).
NSF's regulation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 incorporates by reference NSF's Title IX compliance responsibilities, which require the agency to conduct periodic reviews of recipient practices to determine if they are in compliance (45 C.F.R. § 611.7 and § 618.605) The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) is charged with conducting compliance reviews under Title IX, and the Department of Justice (DOJ), pursuant to Executive Order 12250, has enforcement authority to ensure agency compliance.
NSF recently has developed strategies to promote career-life opportunities along the full professional pathway from student through full professor to increase the number of women in the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce, where the number of women remains low. Included in that strategy is NSF's commitment to and focus on implementing Title IX compliance among recipients of NSF funds.
PROCESS FOR CONDUCTING COMPLIANCE REVIEWS
NSF has adopted a philosophy that involves serving as a resource to grantees while maintaining a balance of identifying and reporting on "career-life" best practices and ensuring full Title IX compliance.
NSF's process involves educating its stakeholders on the roles and responsibilities under Title IX as well as NSF's specific compliance process, which includes a strong communication strategy to all stakeholders, inclusive of NSF's internal staff and grantees.
In regard to compliance reviews, NSF will use a collaborative approach that is modeled specifically for its programs and adopted from an effective and proven model for conducting annual desk and site reviews as part of its risk assessment process. Similar to this model, NSF's compliance process will involve making neutral selections for review, such as the amount of financial assistance, the location and size of the institution, the demographic composition of the science and math programs granted, the potential impact of a review, and the recentness of a compliance review; engagement and collaboration between NSF and recipients; assistance in ensuring basic compliance; and focusing on best practices.
IMPLEMENTATION OF NSF'S COMPLIANCE PROCESS
NSF's compliance model involves three distinct objectives: (1) focusing on "career-life" best practices, (2) conducting desk reviews to gather preliminary compliance information, (3) and conducting on-site reviews.
NSF's focus on "career-life" best practices is an approach in which NSF will request information on a voluntary basis. The benefits of highlighting these best practices are twofold: information obtained will serve as a model for other institutions seeking to implement similar "career-life" practices, and will serve as a baseline in which NSF can measure recipient's progress in this area. Such requests will be a part of NSF's broader strategy focusing on advancing "career-life" policies and program opportunities that take into account the career-family life balance in ensuring an excellent U.S. STEM workforce.
Also, as part of its focus on "career-life" best practices, NSF envisions establishing partnerships with colleges and universities, through their Title IX Coordinators, and offering technical assistance that promotes best practices such as those which:
- provide educational and awareness of Title IX issues and the role of the recipient/institution's Title IX office;
- develop partnerships within decision-making bodies of colleges and universities to promote regular interaction with key officials;
- engage in partnership activities with university administrative leadership; and
- partner with campus and local officials regarding safety issues related to women.
NSF's compliance model will also involve conducting desk reviews to gather preliminary compliance information in which participants will be selected based on neutral criteria. NSF will request information that will allow it to evaluate whether a recipient's policies, procedures, and practices are consistent with Title IX requirements, NSF's Title IX regulations, and other relevant guidelines. Areas of inquiry may include the following:
- functions and responsibilities of the Title IX Coordinator;
- Title IX policies and dissemination;
- Title IX grievance procedures and the effectiveness of their implementation in addressing discrimination and/or harassment matters;
- Title IX self-evaluation efforts as related to recruitment and outreach practices, admission, enrollment, and retention;
- recipient policies and student experiences related to the education program's administration such as recruitment, admission, financial assistance, academic advising/career counseling, research participation and classroom experiences, parental/marital status (family friendly policies), and physical safety
Additionally, NSF will conduct on-site reviews, in which NSF will request information and supporting documentation regarding areas of inquiry, which will involve statistical data related to the specific program under review in areas such as applications, enrollment, financial assistance relating to teaching and research assistantships, qualifying exams, and participation rates. This process will also involve interviews of key contributors, inclusive of the Title IX Coordinator, the head of the reviewing program, faculty, and students.
Based on collaboration and information obtained during compliance eviews, NSF will provide a letter of compliance and a detailed report of review. Moreover, NSF will highlight "career-life" best practices observed during the review, as well as serve as a resource in ensuring full Title IX compliance.