This September, the Department of Education issued new guidance concerning Title IX. This new set of guidance left many confused and scared about the future of Title IX guidelines for sexual misconduct on college campuses. The Salemite spoke with Erin Jones Adams, Salem’s Title IX Coordinator, to see what exactly the new guidance means and what college students should be aware of.
Adams first gave some background on the history of Title IX. She told the Salemite that Title IX was enacted in the 1970s, with a focus on ending sex discrimination in education settings, especially as it pertained to athletics. Since then, the law has expanded to include gender equality on college campuses and to include procedures for sexual violence and sexual harassment cases.
In regards to the recent guidance issued by the department, Adams explained that the 2017 interim guidance emphasizes guidance previously issued in 2001. She also explained that the 2017 guidance seems to indicate a desire to return to the notice and comment model of Title IX guidance in which the public can make comments on the proposed changes, which was not employed in the guidance issued in 2011 when “Dear Colleague” letters were used instead. The new 2017 guidance has withdrawn the 2011 dear Colleague letter.
The contents of the 2017 guidance seek to give respondents more options and equalize the process for both respondents and complainants. “One of the changes that we’ve seen in the new 2017 guidance is to give schools an institutional choice when it comes to the standard of evidence that they use in adjudicating Title IX cases.” This would indicate a change from what is called a “preponderance” of evidence – meaning that it is more likely than not that the claim occurred – to using a higher standard called “clear and convincing” evidence, which would make it harder for claimants to prove that misconduct occurred.
Another change is that the 2017 guidance does not require an appeals process. The guidance also states that if appeals are allowed for the claimant, they must also be allowed for the respondent. This would not change Salem’s current procedure, since appeals for both parties are already allowed. These changes are just two examples of those included in the 2017 interim guidance.
Adams emphasized that the 2017 interim guidance is truly interim – it gives schools the option to make the proposed changes, but does not require them to do so. Since the guidance is not yet law, schools are not required to change their current procedures unless they wish to do so.
Concerning Salem, Adams said, “Salem College has no plans to make any changes to our Title IX procedures until we are required by law to do so.” This means that Salem students can be assured that, at least for the moment, the Title IX procedures remain the same. However, Adams also stated that students should keep an eye out for any news regarding Title IX, since the recent guidance could preface changes to the Title IX law itself.
Adams encourages any students with questions about the new guidance to view the guidance and Q&A documents on the Department of Education website and to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in her office on the second floor of the Inspector’s House.