Title IX is a federal law that was originally designed in 1972 to advance equality among college sports and activities. The law has expanded to include sexual assault and harassment with documents such as the “dear colleague letter” in 2011 and “Questions and Answers” in 2014.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Sept. 22 the department would rescind the previous administration’s guidelines on Title IX and released an interim set of guidelines. Some members of the administration, including DeVos, feel as though the old guidelines focus too much on the complainants rather than due process for the respondents, i.e. the alleged perpetrators.
Many prominent government officials and victim’s rights activists have come out against these new guidelines and the uncertainty they could cause. However, this is a temporary measure. The new official guidelines will include public comments and input from both victim’s rights activists and respondent activists.
“In the coming months, hearing from survivors, campus administrators, parents, students and experts on sexual misconduct will be vital as we work to create a thoughtful rule that will benefit students for years to come,” DeVos said in a press release on the Department of Education website.
Northwestern State’s Title IX Coordinator Lori LeBlanc said overall the interpretation of the law is pretty much the same. As it stands currently, the interim guidelines allow NSU’s current policy to remain unchanged.
The interim guidelines have extended the time limit to an endless amount of time to conduct an investigation, but the university will continue to strive for a resolution within sixty days. It also states the university should notify both parties during an investigation and additionally outlines the standards of evidence.
One standard is called ‘preponderance of evidence,’ which details that if it is concluded over 50 percent of the entire examined evidence points to wrongdoing, the respondent is responsible. Another type is ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ which holds an even higher percentage and standard.
Most campuses, including NSU, currently use preponderance of evidence, although respondents argue that this standard makes it easier to find people guilty and is unfair.
The university upholds the regulations and guidelines laid out by Title IX, but there are nuances and gray areas in dealing with sexual assault and harassment which are taken into consideration for every case.
“This does recognize the rights of the respondents, but it still holds very strong the rights of the complainants and how we can deal with them,” LeBlanc said. “It still allows all the accommodations like counseling, being able to move your housing [and] move your classes if necessary. It still gives us the right to do all that.”
This guidance is similar to the previous administration, but this is only the interim guideline. With input from the public and other groups, official guidelines could potentially be very different.
As of right now, Northwestern State’s policy towards Title IX will not change.