In his first weeks in office, President Biden has promised to reverse several Trump-administration policies and introduce new measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Chronicle is tracking those developments and breaking down what they mean for higher education.
12:55 p.m. Eastern, 1/21/2021
Under Biden, Title IX Will Protect Transgender Students’ Rights
As part of a sweeping series of executive actions on his first day in office, President Biden issued an order asserting that Title IX’s protections based on sex extend also to sexual orientation and gender identity — a major win for transgender students and their advocates.
The order effectively reversed the approach of the Trump administration, which had stripped civil-rights protections from transgender students.
Biden’s order used as its basis the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock ruling, which said that Title VII, the civil-rights law covering employment, protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. By that logic, the order stated, “laws that prohibit sex discrimination, including Title IX … prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The Human Rights Campaign called it “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.”
Critics raised alarms about transgender students’ participation in high-school and college sports, and their use of facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity. Recent lawsuits filed on behalf of female athletes contend that transgender girls and women have an unfair advantage and shouldn’t be allowed to compete in female-only athletic events.
Most colleges already cover sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies, but Biden’s order will offer LGBTQ students more robust protections and allow them to file federal complaints against their institutions for failing to uphold their rights. —Sarah Brown
5:38 p.m. Eastern, 1/20/2021
On First Day in Office, Biden Set to Repeal Trump Policies, Extending DACA and Pause in Student-Loan Payment
After four years in which academe was at loggerheads with the U.S. president, there are already signs that the new administration is taking a more friendly stance toward higher education. Within hours of taking the oath of office, President Biden was set to start undoing the legacy of his predecessor by signing several executive orders that will directly affect colleges and college students.
Those executive orders include:
- Repealing the travel ban that barred students and other visitors from a number of predominantly Muslim countries. The ban was one of the first executive orders of the previous administration, and contributed to declines in what had been robust increases in international enrollment.
- Restoring protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era legal protections provided to undocumented residents who had been brought to the United States as minors — known as Dreamers — meant that many more such students could enroll in college without fear of being deported. The Trump administration had sought unsuccessfully to end the program.
- Extending the moratorium on federal student-loan payments. Most borrowers with federal student loans have not had to make a payment since the first coronavirus stimulus package was enacted, in March. But that pause in payments was set to expire this month. Under Biden’s executive order, the pause will continue through September.
- Repealing the executive order that barred diversity training by federal grantees and contractors. Several colleges announced they would halt such training after the Trump order was issued, sparking criticism that their commitment to diversity and inclusion was shallow to begin with.
The president has also named Rohit Chopra, a strong advocate for student-loan borrowers, to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The selection of Chopra, who previously served as the bureau’s student-loan ombudsman, is a sign that the White House wants aggressive oversight of student-loan servicers. Our Vimal Patel has more.
The Biden administration also will put an end to the so-called “1776 Commission,” according to news accounts. The panel published a faux-historical report a few days ago that was widely panned by academics as a whitewash of U.S. history. As of Wednesday afternoon, the website for the commission, a response to the 1619 Project by The New York Times, was no longer active. —Eric Kelderman