The United States Department of Education has finally released their proposed Title IX policy revisions to the nation. These changes are small in scale, yet controversial in nature, as it has become routine in the current Trump administration. These new measures will affect how universities handle sexual misconduct and discipline for students.
The real changes to the policy revolve around the rights of the accused. These new policies require the burden of proof to be significantly higher for students to be found guilty of sexual misconduct. As of now, the burden of proof is “more likely than not” which means that it must be over 50% likely that a student committed the act than he didn’t.
The proposed rules also will narrow the definition of sexual harassment, holding schools accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses. They would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints.
Arguably the most controversial change to the legislation comes in the form of allowing attorney’s to cross examine potential victims of sexual misconduct in a live setting. As of now, attorneys are not allowed to cross examine potential victims of misconduct other than through written answers. However, with this new policy, college hearings will be treated as “mini courtrooms” with administration filling in the role of judge. Attorneys will now be able to cross examine accusers in the live hearing setting.
Many have come out against this decision. Critics say that this will be harmful to the victims by forcing them to relive potentially traumatic events, and making administration fill in for legal roles they are unfit to hold. However, supporters are claiming that this is necessary to hold both sides accountable and hear the full truth of the story, to ensure no one is wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit.
On Denison’s campus, the views seem split. In polling consisting of close to 200 students, it was narrowly split with 47% in support of the Title IX changes and 53% against. The split between men and women were also split, with 48% of women in support and 52% of men against. There was almost a perfect correlation between support of the policy and gender. While no poll is truly accurate, it reflects national polling of the policy, which shows a relatively divisive populace.
It should be noted, that while these changes are controversial, universities under the proposed law will be able to keep the majority of their individual policy intact, with the main changes being in how formal complaints are handled. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 10 reported sexual misconduct cases went through a formal investigation through Denison University, out of the 43 reports made to the school. These changes in policy would mainly affect those in a formal setting, as opposed to the majority of students who utilized informal means of resolution.Students and staff will have 60 days from when the policy was released to comment on the changes. You can comment through Denison, or at the link: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/11/29/2018-25314/nondiscrimination-on-the-basis-of-sex-in-education-programs-or-activities-receiving-federal