Proposed revisions to Title IX addressed by university

Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed changes to Obama-era regulations to the Title IX statute, which prohibits discrimination on college campuses against a person’s sex.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title IX states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Some of the proposed changes, according to the U.S. Department of Education, include universities performing a ‘live hearing’ in which a cross examination by the accused and accuser’s advisers would take place.

In addition, sexual harassment would be redefined as an, “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity,” according to the statement on their website.

If enacted the university would have to comply to the new guidelines of Title IX, otherwise it would risk losing Title IV, financial aid federal funding, said Christopher Piscitelli, assistant dean of students & director of student conduct.

“I am not sure there is an institution in the world that could lose Title IV monies and still be functioning as an institution,” said Piscitelli. “It is the way in which the government has a stranglehold on the institution to make sure that people are following policy and procedure they are setting.”

Title IX requires colleges and universities to respond to the various needs of survivors after sexual violence or harassment occurs, including counseling and other support services. Piscitelli said the campus’ first reaction to the proposed revisions was to “get around a table.”

“To kind of go through, step-by-step what, what some of the proposed rule changes are, what they mean and how that would play out kind of from a campus perspective,” said Piscitelli. “And then we wanted to be able to inform the system office as to what our opinions were.”

According to a statement released by the CSCU system, the public was granted 60 days to comment on the proposal before its finalization. This concluded on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Piscitelli said those opinions and remarks were then compiled and laid out in President Ojakian’s Title IX Public Comments, a statement he released on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Ojakian’s public comments outlined the “main issues” the CSCU system hopes to be taken into consideration before any final decision on the changes to Title IX are made.

One such issue was that of granting an attorney the privilege to serve as an adviser to a victim, and a redefined explanation of what condones as sexual harassment.

“I think we will see an incredible increase of students who will say, ‘I’m not going through that process knowing that [an] attorney [is] going to be cross-examining me in a room,’” said Piscitelli.

The current options, Piscitelli said, are students can opt to either have the university deal with the incident through their own process or choose to file criminal charges through an outside police force.

“There are students now who want to avoid the criminal process because they don’t want to put themselves into that kind of a position,” said Piscitelli, “and now we’re introducing that a very similar process into the university process.”

Paula Rice, the university’s Title IX coordinator, said the support currently offered to students would not go anywhere.

“That’s not going anywhere,” said Rice, “It may be a time of confusion for our students and I think the university’s gonna make sure we get out there to make sure our students are equipped with the information they need.”

Photo Credit: August Pelliccio

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