New Title IX regulations coming this semester

Allie Karthaus | Senior Graphic Designer

Ellen McDonald, News Editor

On May 19, 2020 The United States Department of Education published new Title IX regulations for federally funded institutions to adhere to. These new regulations will become effective on Aug. 14, 2020. 

“We had to start from scratch,” said Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Administrator of the University of North Alabama Kayleigh Baker. “We had to write a new policy.”

Before the new policy is implemented at UNA, it must go through a series of steps. 

“We will work off this new policy in August, but it will technically not be official yet,” Baker said. 

The Office of Title IX will present these changes to the senators of the Student Government Association (SGA), to the Staff Senate and to the Faculty Senate. Then, it will be taken to the Board of Trustees. After this, the changes to the Title IX Policy of UNA will be official.

The new Title IX regulation holds schools accountable for failure to respond equitably and promptly to sexual misconduct incidents and ensures a more reliable adjudication process that is fair to all students, according to the United States Department of Education website. The new regulation comes after years of wide-ranging research, careful deliberation and critical input from survivors, advocates, falsely accused students, school administrators, Title IX coordinators and the American people, including over 124,000 public comments.

With all of these changes to Title IX, many new guidelines and processes accompany them. These changes are all listed on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. 

The most prominent of these are: sexual harassment now includes sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking, discrimination on the basis of sex, holds schools accountable for off-campus sexual harassment owned or under the control of fraternities and sororities and shields survivors from having to come face-to-face with the accused during a hearing and from answering questions posed personally by the accused.

When these changes first came out back in May of this year, many were concerned about the live trial and cross examination aspect of the new regulations. The main question many asked was if this would deter victims from reporting their assailant?

“New regulations require that a live hearing must take place at the conclusion of the formal grievance process,” Baker said. “During the live hearing, each party will have the opportunity to answer relevant questions. Direct cross-examination is permitted but must be conducted by the parties’ advisors.”

These new regulations have been put in place in order to lower the chances of a student being falsely accused of the violent actions that fall under Title IX. However, when a victim knows that he or she must relive their story over and over, this could serve as a disincentive. 

“It sounds scary,” Baker said. “We hope to debunk that once we are able to get in front of students. The process is still the same and the same questions will be asked.”

This semester, the Office of Title IX will give the students of the university multiple opportunities to ask questions and to learn about these changes.

“The other party will never ask you questions and they do not have to be in the same room,” Baker said. “We will be doing everything we can to make sure there is never a feeling of lost control within the situation.”

While these changes might seem daunting, victims will always have a system of support behind them every step of the way. 

“The new Title IX regulations also include procedural safeguards for both parties such as allowing the parties to review evidence, notice of the allegations before being interviewed, and allowance of a support person/advisor throughout the process,” Baker said. 

There will never be a moment where the victim is alone. These new changes are there to ensure that. 

Under these new directives, one important thing to note is the definition of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment under Title IX includes: quid pro quo sexual harassment (sexual harassment in which an employer conveys to their employee that he or she will base a decision on their satisfaction of a sexual demand), unwelcomed conduct based on sex that’s determined by a resonable person to be so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. 

“The most important thing to know is that the Office of Title IX is still here to serve,” Baker said. “If students have any questions they should come here (their office located in 202 Guillot University Center).” 

The Office of Title IX, while undergoing many changes, is still the same in that they are here to protect their students.

Additionally, the new regulations of Title IX does not require universities to adapt a new burden of proof (way to prove someone’s assertions).

“The new regulations allow Universities to choose either ‘preponderance of the evidence’ or ‘clear and convincing’ standards so long as the standard is applied equally to all cases of Sexual Harassment under Title IX,” Baker said. “UNA currently uses the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard for all cases of Sexual Harassment and sexual misconduct.”

“Under the preponderance standard, the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true,” according to the website of Cornell Law School. 

This method ensures that the plaintiff is being truthful in their accusations, as to avoid false convictions. 

Another big change to Title IX is that an incident does not have to occur on campus. 

“There is no geographical boundary under the new Title IX regulations for conduct that occurs within the United States,” Baker said.

So, this means that a victim can make a report of an incident at any UNA affiliated fraternity house, apartment building, or residence hall. A report can be made of any incident on UNA’s campus as well. 

Furthermore, like the prior policy, the new policy still requires UNA faculty, staff and coaches to report sexual misconduct to the Office of Title IX.

“Under UNA’s current policy, all employees are designated Responsible Employees who must report allegations of sexual misconduct…” Baker said. “The new Title IX regulations do not require a change to UNA’s current policy. If changes are made to UNA’s reporting structure, faculty, staff and students will be notified and trained accordingly.”

Reporting sexual assault, sexual discrimination and sexual misconduct can be a terrifying task. Victims can feel alone, lost, or as if they are to blame. The Office of Title IX is here to help those who need it on UNA’s campus.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).

Unfortunately, sexual violence is not a rarebit, even on college campuses. Both men and women can become victims. There is not a criterion that one has to meet to endure these acts. 

Moreover, 21% of transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TRQN) college students have been sexually assaulted, said RAINN’s website. That is compared to 18% of non-TRQN females and 4% of non-TRQN males. 

On college campuses, there are typically two leading crimes: robbery and sexual violence. While there are more, sexual violence occurs more often as compared to other crimes. For every one robbery, two women are sexually assaulted, according to RAINN’s website. 

This is not a minor issue that can be ignored. This happens far too often and in order for statistics to be lowered, victims need to feel safe enough to report their assailants and seek justice. 

“Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college,” RAINN’s website says.

With these changes coming in at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, it is now more than ever imperative that UNA students know and understand their rights within the Title IX office. 

Title IX is on campus to help students who need it. They are not here to intimidate or to scare survivors away from telling their stories. Through Title IX and through these new regulations, students can feel comfortable and empowered to speak out about their experience.