The U.S. Department of Education recently issued new guidelines for how universities and K-12 schools will investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations beginning Aug. 14.
To ensure students, faculty and staff are aware of the new rules and how they will work in practice, Title IX coordinators for all four campuses in the CU system have begun meeting with stakeholder groups to explain what has changed with Title IX, what will remain the same, and how the campuses can continue to address sexual misconduct with strong university policies that complement the new Title IX rules.
Valerie Simons, associate vice chancellor and Title IX coordinator for CU Boulder’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC), is leading the systemwide implementation of the new rules issued on May 6. This effort is in addition to the work of a statewide committee she chairs that is providing recommendations to all of Colorado’s institutions of higher education required to update their policies under the new rules.
“We want students, faculty and staff to know that we are working to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all who come to our campuses to pursue their academic and career goals,” Simons said. “The only way to do that is by upholding strong policies, procedures and practices to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.”
Commitment to Equity and Fairness
Simons said OIEC and partner offices on other CU campuses are committed to providing equity and fairness during resolutions in sexual misconduct cases, to complying with new and existing applicable federal and state laws, and to creating processes that campus communities can understand and access.
She said CU’s sexual misconduct policy, which has been updated to include the new guidance, would continue to include full investigation of sexual misconduct allegations; on- and off-campus jurisdiction; the provision of supportive measures and services to parties; mandatory reporting by responsible employees; and procedural protections for all parties during formal investigations.
The federal government’s new regulations narrow sexual misconduct definitions under Title IX, specify jurisdiction for such cases, and prescribe grievance procedures and staff roles for adjudications. However, the regulations do not restrict universities from additionally addressing sexual misconduct outside the purview of Title IX, which CU will continue to do, Simons said.
Mandated federal changes also include definitions and terminology about what is considered prohibited conduct; the separation of roles between decision-makers and sexual misconduct investigators; and the inclusion of live, cross-examination hearings that provide cost-free advisers if needed.
Since fall 2018, when federal education officials issued proposed changes to Title IX rules, the CU system’s Title IX Committee has been analyzing them and working to establish a model for scenarios that are consistent with university policies and applicable laws. Committee members include Title IX, human resources and university counsel staff.
Simons and OIEC have also met regularly with campus partners to review proposed policies and process, including the Office of Victim Assistance, Student Legal Services, the CU Police Department, Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, Faculty Staff Assistance Program, Counseling and Psychiatric Services, Athletics and student, faculty and staff governance groups.
No later than Aug. 14, universities and K-12 schools across the country will be required to implement the federal rule changes and provide appropriate trainings to all students, faculty, and staff.
To meet that deadline, all incoming CU Boulder students must complete online community equity and effective bystander intervention training that launched July 15 and includes new sexual misconduct policy and guidelines. Returning undergraduate students, new and returning graduate students, and all faculty and staff will be required to complete a similar training that will become available in August.
In addition to meeting Title IX requirements, this training will fulfill the mandatory bystander intervention training listed in the chancellor’s eight immediate actions for change to build a more inclusive campus environment.