As higher education institutions across the U.S. have had to quickly adapt their courses and policies in response to COVID-19, those same institutions will have to adapt to yet another change: Title IX. On May 6, the U.S. Department of Education released its highly anticipated new set of final regulations that oversee campus sexual misconduct cases under Title IX.
The rollout of these new regulations marked the first time that the Dept. of Education has interpreted the Federal Title IX gender equity portion of the law which guides higher education institutions on how to handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campuses. These updated regulations have had institutions holding their breaths since a proposed revamp was announced in 2017. These new regulations will take effect on August 14.
Critics argue that students under these new regulations will now be less likely to come forward as the regulations allow those accused to question evidence and to cross-examine their accusers. However, advocates for the change cite that this provides adequate due process for those accused of sexual misconduct in a fairer way.
Here are five key takeaways on the new Title IX Regulations:
- Institutions will be required to adopt a revised version of the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment as an “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.”
- Live hearings will be required by colleges and universities where the accused and accusers will be cross-examined to determine their credibility. These will be done by the Title IX on-campus officer or lawyers.
- Schools are no longer obligated to investigate all sexual misconduct claims. Instead, the new regulations only require schools to conduct investigations of those claims that are filed through a formal process or brought to the attention of someone on a campus with the authority to take action.
- Investigations will only be required for complaints that occurred on campus, through a campus program or activity. This includes class field trips, sporting events, and academic conferences, but excludes study abroad programs.
- Schools will be obligated to conduct investigations in “a building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by a postsecondary institution.” This includes sororities and fraternities.
Student conduct offices will need to adapt to these new changes, yet thorough Title IX tracking will still be required to provide information and proof that they took action to report or take action on such misconduct.