United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed changes to the current regulations under Title IX. The changes would “narrow the definition of sexual harassment and change how schools handle future cases,” according to The New York Times.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and states that no person shall be excluded from participation in or discriminated against under any education program on the basis of sex, according to the Department of Education website.
“The proposed changes are still tenuous, we’ll have to see how it plays out,” said Joseph Lento, National Title IX Attorney for Lento Law Firm. “Based on the proposed changes, [it’s assumed] they wouldn’t pursue cases arguably as aggressively as they have in the past.”
Lento said these changes would temper the enforcement of these cases.
According to The New York Times, the new definition of sexual harassment would make private and public universities under Title IX policy only accountable for the formal complaints that occurred on campus and filed to the correct authorities.
Under the Obama administration, schools were required to investigate any complaints made regardless of where they took place. The proposed changes would end this policy.
“The main thing we want to ensure is that the affected parties have resources and support and can move forward with an investigation should there be a potential policy violation,” Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Chris Paul said in an email interview.
According to the Cal Lutheran website, the university does not tolerate any sexual misconduct that occurs either on-campus or off-campus. With these new proposed changes, Cal Lutheran may face a situation where they could only investigate on-campus occurrences.
“For example, if a respondent sends unwelcome text messages presently, they may find themselves under the review of facing a Title IX case,” Lento said. “If these changes go through, that may not be the case.”
In addition, students would no longer be able to file complaints directly to residential advisers in dormitories.
“The proposed change would mean that students could still report to the Title IX coordinator, deputy Title IX coordinator, Campus Safety, Residence Life and Student Conduct and the Vice President for Student Affairs,” Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Melinda Roper said in an email interview. “RAs would no longer be an option.”
It was not clarified if students would be able to file complaints directly to faculty members following DeVos’ proposed changes. Currently, Cal Lutheran faculty are mandated reporters and are required to report any sexual misconduct that is shared by students.
Lento said that Title IX guidelines apply to both public and private universities if they receive federal funding from the Department of Education.
There are some cases where schools are not federally funded, meaning they are not subject to Title IX, but it is a very rare occurrence, Lento said.
“We currently refer students to [Counseling and Psychological Services] and other local resources that are listed in our Sexual Violence Resource Packet located on our Title IX website,” Paul said. “No matter if there is an investigation or not, we make sure students are connected both on and off campus to resources and support that will help them through difficult times.”
However, Title IX Coordinator and Associate Vice President for Athletics Jim McHugh said in an email interview that the university is still required to follow regulations made by the state.
“The State of California also set[s] rules on how a public or private university handles sexual misconduct and we need to abide by those as well,” McHugh said.
More information on Title IX and the reporting process can be found on the Cal Lutheran website.
“Our current process for a complaint is depicted on the Cal Lutheran Title IX website in the complaint flow chart,” McHugh said.
Roper said Cal Lutheran aims to have a supportive and safe campus with equal opportunities for all students.
“We are deeply committed to the care and support of all students, and work to create a path forward that allows students to successfully continue their studies and engage positively with the campus community,” Roper said in an email interview.
University of Southern California Title IX Coordinator Gretchen Means, Cal Lutheran Campus Safety Director David Hilke and Azusa Pacific University Title IX Coordinator Christine Guzman said they prefer to not comment on the proposed changes to Title IX until the official regulations are released in October.