Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released new policies for Title IX regulations. Title IX is the popular name for the section of law in the Education Amendments of 1972 that concerns sex discrimination and sexual misconduct.
“This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process,” said DevVos. The statement released by the U.S. Education Department outlined key areas for reform that affect pre-K and K-12 schools as well colleges and universities that receive federal funding.
Many education and advocacy groups have criticized the timing of the release of the 2,033 page document which would go into effect in August. As mandated by federal law, the U.S Education Department solicited feedback and allowed for public comment before adopting any regulations. Commentators raised concerns regarding the increased “adversarial” nature of the new regulations and how the process should “not replace civil or criminal justice systems.”
In the statement, the U.S. Education Department outlined a clear intent to “strengthen Title IX protections for survivors of sexual misconduct and to restore due process in campus proceedings.” The statement also announced “for first time ever, the Department’s Title IX regulations define sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sex discrimination.”
Currently, Title IX investigations are considered administrative proceedings. Violations of Title IX policies on a college campus can result in administrative sanctions by the university such as expulsion or suspension. Title IX investigations or sanctioning are not considered criminal proceedings.
Other changes to Title IX regulations include allowing greater cross-examining or interviewing of the complainant, mandating a standard of evidence, and expanding Title IX oversight to “houses owned or under the control of school-sanctioned fraternities and sororities.” The full summary of key changes is available on the U.S Department of Education’s website.
Higher education organizations have drawn concerns with the new regulations. In a statement, the American Council on Education criticized the U.S. Department of Education’s release of the policy changes during the midst of a national pandemic. “The Department of Education is not living in the real world. As a result of the pandemic, virtually every college and university in the country is closed. Choosing this moment to impose the most complex and challenging regulations the agency has ever issued reflects appallingly poor judgment,” according to ACE.
“The Department of Education is not living in the real world. As a result of the pandemic, virtually every college and university in the country is closed. Choosing this moment to impose the most complex and challenging regulations the agency has ever issued reflects appallingly poor judgment.”Statement from the American Council on Education on may 6, 2020.
Similarly, Brett A. Sokolow, President of the Association of Title IX Administrators, has called the regulations “dramatic and even more far-reaching” for colleges and universities.
Madison McLaughlin, President of the RSU Student Government Association, has stated her intentions to gather feedback from students before drafting a resolution on the subject. “I don’t want to say my personal opinions are the opinions of the student body as a whole, but they should be made aware of a decision that affects them,” said McLaughlin.
Currently, the National Women’s Law Center has stated its intentions to roll back the new regulations. In a statement, Fatima Graves, President of the NWLC, said, “releasing this rule during the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 unveils a disturbing set of priorities. And if this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault. We refuse to go back to the days when rape and harassment in schools were ignored and swept under the rug. And we won’t let DeVos succeed in requiring schools to be complicit in harassment, turning Title IX from a law that protects all students into a law that protects abusers and harassers. We will fight this unlawful rule in the courts.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
Gallery: Fairest on the Hill Draws Crowds and Dazzles
Student Government Holds First Meeting: Recognizes Black Student Association
In their first meeting of the academic year, 36 students attended the Student Government Association Congress meeting. “We’re excited to have you hear, especially in person,” said student government vice president Darci Johnson.
Beginning at 1:21 p.m., the SGA called the meeting to order. All officers of the student government gave reports on their offices. SGA Public Relations Director Caden Coleman announced a freshman council and shared his social media account as a source of information. SGA President Madison McLaughlin and SGA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Yleana Esparza also shared their social media accounts.
Currently, the SGA Congress has not approved appropriations or formally established a freshman student government council. New business included recognizing two student organizations at RSU.
“We hope we get this student organization back on track,” said RSU student Giovanni Wahome. He represented the International Student Association and spoke about the perspective of international students at RSU. The International Student Association has previously been recognized as a registered student organization at RSU but fell into bad-standing with the SGA.
Wahome described disparities in international student services offered at RSU compared to other institutions under the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. Vice President Johnson objected to further questions by the Hill News regarding the association’s experience attempting to be recognized as a registered student organization again.
The International Student Association was officially recognized by the SGA Congress and passed unanimously. RSU student Kira Carter then presented Brothers and Sisters for Excellence, a proposed black student association, to the SGA Congress.
“It’s going to allow students to make connections,” said Carter. RSU has not had a recognized black student organization since being accredited as a four year, regional university.
“We can spread diversity across campus,” explained Carter. She described that Brothers and Sisters for Excellence as an inclusive student organization for RSU students. The proposed student organization was recognized and passed unanimously.
SGA President McLaughlin recognized incoming RSU Student Activities Coordinator Katie Warnick to share announcements. Warnick began working on August 25, 2020, and oversees campus events, student organization support services, and other university recreational activities.
Warnick announced that student organizations at RSU will be expected to adhere to COVID-19 activity guidelines. Warnick also announced that the SGA will be hosting the Student Organization Leadership Retreat on September 11, 2020. This annual event is traditionally required for student organizations in the spring semester but was not held to COVID-19.
RSU Libraries shared information about upcoming campus events, and President McLaughlin adjourned the meeting at 2:02 p.m.