The U.S. Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX in November 2018. These changes are supposed to give accommodations to students who are sexual assault survivors, limit what the schools need to look into, and give students who were accused resources to defend themselves, too.
The changes are:
- Sexual assaults that happen off-campus don’t need to be investigated by the university.
- Schools need to provide students who were sexually assaulted with support, such as switching schedules, counseling, and keeping their attacker from contacting them. This should still happen even if the student doesn’t want to make a formal complaint.
- Should a student tell a professor that they were assaulted, this doesn’t mean that the university needs to follow up with the allegation.
- When a school is investigating a sexual assault case, there will be a hearing where the student’s representatives can provide a cross-examination, but cannot ask questions about the sexual history of the student who is saying they were assaulted.
- The parties involved have equal access to the evidence.
- While schools can deny appeals for students facing disciplinary decisions in sexual misconduct cases, if they do allow appeals, then the parties involved can do so.
- The university official who is investigating the allegation can’t decide the case’s outcome.
Kentucky universities are looking into their current processes and how they would have to make changes to meet the new laws. Brian Bigelow, who is the Title IX coordinator for the University of Louisville, thinks it’s important to be proactive because there will be significant changes.
The university would have to change their disciplinary cases for the cross-examination requirement because they currently limit participation by student representatives. However, there are those who don’t agree with the change. Shiwali Patel of the National Women’s Law Center isn’t in favor of the cross-examination because the student who is alleging assault could be aggressively questioned by an attorney, and there are better ways to get the full story that doesn’t traumatize the survivor.
There’s also the question of looking into off-campus assaults. But the student’s educational career can still be severely affected. Northern Kentucky University’s Title IX coordinator, Ande Durojaive agrees. This could also really affect the students who live off-campus.
The University of Kentucky’s president, Eli Capilouto, is having a group of faculty, staff, and students look over the rules and make recommendations as to how the university’s policies will align with the new rules and still represent their values. They will wait until the proposed rules are finalized before changing their policies.
Some are in favor of these changes. Samantha Harris, who is involved with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, approves because she believes everyone will benefit from a process that’s fair.
Durojaive also approved that universities would gain consistency in how they deal with sexual assault allegations and misconduct. While the rules may change how the matter is handled, it doesn’t mean that universities will back away from addressing these issues. He believes that the changes won’t push schools backwards and the educational institutions are still focused on sexual misconduct.