Less than a year after that The universities have tried to meet new requirements For handling sexual misconduct cases, campus officials must prepare for another round of Title IX changes.
The Department of Education's Civil Rights Office announced on Tuesday that it would review the Title IX provisions enacted last August by the Trump administration's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. The rules interpreting Title IX, the federal law on gender equality, have tightened protections for students accused of sexual misconduct, including requiring prosecutors to be interrogated at a live hearing.
The announcement was expected as President Biden in one supreme command last month that he wants to change the provisions of Trump-era Title IX.
The review of Title IX begins exactly 10 years after Biden as Vice President. announced the "Dear colleague letter", " the groundbreaking document that pleaded with universities take sexual violence more seriously or the risk of a federal investigation. The letter from the dear colleague sparked a decade of intensive scrutiny of the universities' response to complaints about sexual misconduct. DeVos repealed these guidelines in 2017.
Here's what you need to know about Biden's Title IX review.
What does the education department do?
The Ministry of Education's civil rights office is currently reviewing “existing regulations, orders, guidelines, guidelines and other similar measures of the authority” on Title IX. The civil rights bureau will also hold a multi-day public hearing where people can provide oral or written comments.
The review is being led initially by Suzanne B. Goldberg, assistant secretary for civil rights and former senior officer at Columbia University. Goldberg, who is also a law professor, was closely involved in the Title IX process in Colombia when the university became embroiled in controversy over how to handle sexual assault cases.
Do you know your IX, a national victim representation, praised Tuesday announcement and said it was a sign that the Biden government had listened to requests for change. Last week, Know Your IX backed up a #EDActNow campaign calling on Education to remove Trump-era rules.
What is the timeline?
The public hearing on Title IX will take place "in the coming weeks", according to the civil rights office. The Office also plans to publish a new guide, a "Q&A", informing universities on how the Agency intends to enforce the current rules of Title IX during the review.
Revised provisions of Title IX will take much longer. "Eighteen months at least," said Melissa M. Carleton, a senior attorney who works with colleges on Title IX issues. The Trump administration announced its intention to draft new Title IX rules in September 2017 and ended the rulemaking process three years later.
What changes could there be for Title IX and sexual misconduct?
Courtney Bullard, a former campus attorney who now advises colleges, expects the Biden administration to expand the current Title IX definition of harassment to include other types of sexual misconduct, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Harassment is currently defined as behavior that is “so severe, ubiquitous, and objectively offensive” that it denies a person access to training.
The Trump-era Title IX regulations also don't cover most off-campus sexual assault, and Bullard predicts that will change.
Many victim advocates advocate ending the mandatory hearings and cross-examination, saying that such processes can retraumatize victims and prevent them from coming forward in the first place. However, due process advocates believe that cross-examining is the best way to learn the truth about what happened in an alleged incident.
"The common picture of cross-examination is with trained attorneys asking precise and stern questions to people on the other side of a case and a judge settling well-crafted objections to inappropriate questions," she wrote. "But campuses are not courtrooms, and the reality at most colleges and universities would be very different."
Even so, Carleton doesn't think colleges will scrap Title IX hearings entirely, even if Education no longer mandates them. "It is always difficult to reverse procedural safeguards once they are in place," she said. What's more recent judgments of the federal court mean that universities in certain parts of the country must continue to hold hearings no matter what.
The Civil Rights Bureau's upcoming Q&A document is unlikely to result in major campus overhauls, Carleton said. However, this could lead to changes in certain aspects of the Title IX process.
For example, suppose an accused student makes a written confession but does not appear at the Title IX hearing. Currently, if a student chooses not to attend the hearing, the colleges cannot use any information the student has provided to determine if sexual assault has occurred.
That would put the colleges in an awkward position where they might feel compelled to make a potentially incorrect determination, Carleton said. She hopes the education department will clarify how universities should deal with such situations.
What should universities do in the meantime?
Explain to the campus community that administrators know what is happening but that the Trump-era Title IX rules will stay on the books, Carleton said.
The colleges are just finishing their first academic year under the terms of the mandates. Most institutions had to revise their Title IX guidelines. Some sites have had to set up entirely new procedures for assessing cases of sexual misconduct and hire new staff.
The rules and guidelines for Title IX of the Federation for universities have been changed several times in the last ten years. While many campus officials might welcome changes, Bullard means spending time complying with laws they would rather spend on sexual assault prevention. "It's overwhelming for a lot of schools," she said.