In the half-century since it became federal law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has generated countless headlines revolving around campus gender equity, mostly in sports. However, very few establishment news media have reported on one misuse of the law: Colleges and universities are now invoking Title IX to constrain and manipulate journalists, including student journalists, as FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, reported in September 2022.
In September 2022, Princeton student and campus journalist Danielle Shapiro was served a no-contact order by the university, citing Title IX, which effectively prevented her from ever again contacting—that is to say, interviewing or reporting on—the leader of a student group called the Princeton Committee on Palestine. Shapiro says that any thorough investigation would have shown she had interviewed the student in question only once, and while disagreements arose as they talked, the interviewee never indicated feeling threatened whatsoever.
As Lindsie Rank reported for FIRE, colleges and universities are required, ethically and legally, to do their part to prevent sexual discrimination on campus, but “nothing in the language of Title IX or its attendant guidelines requires institutions to silence journalists, either through no-contact orders or overbroad mandatory reporting policies.”
Rank previously reported a similar misuse of Title IX at the University of Illinois in October 2019. In that case, the school informed its campus National Public Radio station that any interviews with sources about sexual misconduct must be handed over to the university, without assurances of journalistic confidentiality. As Rank reported in that story, the case exposed how the university’s “overbroad” Title IX mandatory reporting policy “affects not only the journalists who must report allegations to campus authorities, but also the students who wish to speak to the press.”
Neither of these stories were covered by establishment news outlets, though Shapiro, the Princeton student journalist, published an opinion piece on the case in the Wall Street Journal.
Source: Lindsie Rank, “Title IX Weaponized Against Student Journalists, Again. This Time, at Princeton,” FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), September 28, 2022.
Student Researcher: Phoebe Lingold (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)