UC Office of the President responds to proposed Title IX changes

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The UC Office of the President released a statement Friday in response to Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ proposed Title IX changes.

The university’s Interim Systemwide Title IX Coordinator Suzanne Taylor pointed to several changes of concern in the release, such as narrowing the scope of sexual harassment and the requirement of live hearings over other investigative models, which the UC and others had “deliberately” created.

According to a Title IX fact sheet from the Department of Education, the proposed regulation would adopt a “clear definition” of sexual harassment and would be changed to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.” The Obama administration’s previous guidelines broadly defined it as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”

“Suddenly permitting schools to disregard any sexual misconduct that does not overcome new and unnecessary hurdles is equally confounding,” the UC press release stated. “These and other proposed rules by ED will seriously impede students’ abilities to obtain redress for wrongdoing.”

Taylor added that sexual misconduct outside of a school’s jurisdiction often has an impact on an educational environment or activity. Under DeVos’ proposed changes, schools would have no obligation to respond to cases if they were not clearly defined as occurring on campus — even if both parties were students — and would possibly dismiss any alleged behavior.

According to the UC press release, the requirements of a live hearing and cross-examination for formal complaints are “unnecessary and inherently intimidating,” especially to students making the decision to come forward.

In addition, the UC release stated that the rights of the most vulnerable were “under attack,” and it found it important to continue countering “ill-advised attempts” to change Title IX. The UC already ensures due process, including the respondent’s right to question complainants and witnesses in a way that would not cause further trauma.

“UC (saw) significant increase in reports in the last few years, as students felt confident in processes that are provided,” Taylor said. “(We are) concern(ed) this change, of course, will (result in) less coming forward. ”

While these Title IX regulations have been proposed, the Department of Education won’t make these changes official in the Federal Register until after a 60-day public comment period for review, according to the department’s website.

Taylor said the UC is focusing on educating rule-makers on problematic issues as well as preventing schools from being subjected to “difficult policies” that promote harm to students.

According to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay, her office will be working within the next 60 days to “mobilize students” to make public comments.

“We will be working … to coordinate our responses and solicit as many unique public comments from students as possible,” Khalfay said in an email.

Contact Sarah Chung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sarahchungdc.