Regarding New U.S. Department of Ed Title IX Regulations
Dear Western Community,
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education released its long-awaited final regulations governing campus sexual assault under Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination at federally funded institutions.
The regulations will be the first Title IX guidance published by the Office of Civil Rights to go through a formal notice-and-comment process since 1997, and unlike guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011 and 2014, they will have the force of law behind them. Colleges and universities will be required to comply with the regulations by August 14.
Western’s Equal Opportunity Office is currently reviewing and analyzing the final rule, which consists of over 2,000 pages. Given the short timeframe to be compliant with the final regulation, the University will develop an interim policy and procedure that will meet the requirements by the August deadline. A final policy and procedure will then be developed with opportunity for a broader array of stakeholders to give input.
At a time when our nation is still grappling with the far-reaching impacts of sexual harassment and violence, the Department of Education’s action seeks to reverse hard-fought social and policy gains. Imposing these new rules in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when students and staff are already dealing with stress and anxiety, is very troubling. And the tight timeline for compliance, when schools have limited ability to meet with community members to discuss these changes, only adds to the challenges.
We, like many institutions nationwide, are concerned that subjecting those reporting sexual harassment to direct cross-examination could deter already reluctant and sometimes traumatized complainants from coming forward.
Please know that Western remains committed to addressing all forms of sexual misconduct, including sexual violence, sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence. The Western community upholds fundamental values including a firm commitment to equity and justice, and respect for the rights and dignity of others. These new regulations will not change our commitment to trauma-informed investigation procedures that take into account the psychological impact sexual misconduct can have.
I know that hard-working professionals across the Western community in CASAS, the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center, the Office of Student Life, and the Equal Opportunity Office, as well as partners in our surrounding communities, will redouble their education and prevention efforts and ensure that our processes are fair and compassionate to all parties. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our students and community, and we will respond to the new rules with care and thoughtfulness. We have come too far to halt our progress now.