New Title IX Regulations for Universities Take Effect

Regulations mandated by the U.S. Department of Education approved Friday; Code of Student Conduct also updated.

August 17, 2020

New Title IX regulations from the U.S. Department of Education became effective Friday, outlining how colleges and universities must respond to reports of sexual harassment. The regulations were issued in May.

In general, the new regulations do the following:

  • Clarify that Title IX prohibits sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and sex-based stalking.
  • Require specific procedures for responding to reports and formal complaints of sexual harassment.
  • Ensure that all parties have access to supportive measures regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed. 
  • Require a live hearing with cross-examination to be part of the formal resolution process.

In order to comply with the new regulations, GW revised its Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Interpersonal Violence Policy. The revised policy is now titled the “Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy.” 

“The university’s core principles regarding Title IX compliance have not changed,” said Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Caroline Laguerre-Brown. “We are committed to fostering a positive climate for study and work, free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

An informational email sent to the GW community stressed that the university does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs or activities. The university will comply with the new Title IX regulations and other applicable laws and regulations, and the university will treat everyone who engages with the Title IX Office fairly, equitably and with respect.

Information about GW’s revised Title IX policy is available on the university’s Title IX website.

Supportive measures are available to members of the GW community regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed. These are non-disciplinary individualized services, accommodations and other assistance that the university may put in place for complainants, respondents and occasionally third parties without fee or charge.  Supportive measures are designed to restore or preserve access to the university’s education programs and activities and protect the safety of all parties and the university’s educational environment without being punitive in nature. Among many others, examples include access to counseling and medical services, arranging rescheduling of exams and assignments, or facilitating changes in class or work schedules.

The formal resolution process provided in the policy involves a prompt, thorough, equitable and impartial investigation and hearing to determine whether it is more likely than not that a policy violation occurred. The Title IX investigator, not the parties, is responsible for gathering evidence.  The parties have an equal opportunity to be interviewed, present relevant evidence, identify witnesses and have an advisor of their choice, who may be, but is not required to be, an attorney. The respondent is presumed not responsible. Responsibility is determined by a hearing officer after a live hearing with cross-examination conducted by the parties’ advisors. If the hearing officer determines it is more likely than not that a policy violation occurred, the matter is referred to a disciplinary authority to determine appropriate sanctions and/or remedies. Both parties also have the opportunity to submit an appeal, which is reviewed by a separate appeals officer.

“We are aware that members of our community are very concerned about how hearings and particularly how cross-examination will be conducted,” Ms. Laguerre-Brown said. “We thought about this concern as we drafted the new policy and added rules of decorum to our procedures that make it clear that abuse will not be tolerated and that proper decorum will be required throughout the hearing procedures.”

As an alternative to the formal resolution process, the university's policy also provides for a voluntary, remedy-based resolution tailored to the parties’ needs. For example, an alternative resolution may involve providing targeted or broad-based educational programming or training. Alternative resolution is not available to resolve allegations that an employee sexually harassed a student.

The Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy will continue to require certain university community members, or “designated reporters,” to report information they may learn about alleged or suspected sexual harassment to the Title IX Coordinator. This will help connect individuals who have been impacted by sexual harassment with trained professionals and available support services. For a list of individuals who are deemed designated reporters, please see the Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy.

The university's Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy applies to all conduct occurring within a university program or activity, including conduct occurring in online environments and through virtual communications.

The Title IX Office is fully functional and working remotely at this time. Anyone impacted by sexual misconduct is encouraged to contact the Title IX Office to make a report. Supportive measures, investigations and all other services will be conducted virtually to assure that any sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, stalking, retaliation or other sexually discriminatory behaviors are addressed promptly.

For more information, please see GW’s Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy and Frequently Asked Questions or visit titleIX.gwu.edu.

 

Code of Student Conduct Update

Additionally, the annual review of the Code of Student Conduct was approved last week. Like the Title IX regulations, the changes went into effect Friday.

Among the most important changes is that the university’s medical amnesty policy—which guarantees that a student needing to be transported to the hospital for the first time as the result of intoxication and/or overdose will not face formal non-academic conduct action by the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities, provided that student has not committed any other violations of the Code of Student Conduct—has now been expanded to include other drugs besides alcohol. “Good Samaritans” who call to obtain medical assistance for an intoxicated student also will not face formal non-academic conduct action, provided that they have committed no conduct code violation other than the possession or use of alcohol by persons under 21 or intoxication on or off university premises.

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