Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Proposed Title IX Changes Spark Student Letter

SHEEL PATEL/THE HOYA Students are urging Georgetown University administrators to be clear about how proposed changes to Title IX laws will affect university Title IX proceedings.

Nearly 300 students signed a letter urging Georgetown University to be transparent in how the changes the U.S. Department of Education proposed to Title IX laws would affect the university’s sexual misconduct policies.

Organized by Students Taking Action Against Interpersonal Violence, students delivered the letter to the office of University President John J. DeGioia on Friday. As of publication, 294 students have signed onto it.

The letter calls for administrators to communicate to students how the potential changes to Title IX, which were proposed Friday, would affect how Georgetown handles sexual misconduct, submit a comment denouncing the changes to the Department of Education during the 60-day comment period, and call on other Catholic and Jesuit universities to likewise show their opposition to the new regulation.

The letter was addressed to DeGioia, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Vice President and General Counsel Lisa Brown, and Assistant Vice President for Student Health Dr. Vince WinklerPrins.

Kilkenny noted the university’s “longstanding commitment” to ridding the campus of sexual assault and misconduct in a statement regarding the proposed Title IX changes.

“We will continue to focus on education and prevention, support for survivors, and prompt and equitable processes to respond to reports and complaints of sexual misconduct,” Kilkenny said. “Our current policies and processes continue to remain in place. We will carefully review the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX regulations.”

The changes clarify the anti-sex discrimination law following Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ September 2017 rollback of guidance from former President Barack Obama’s administration. In response to the initial guidance rollback, Georgetown stated its related policies and procedures would not change as it awaited the regulations.

DeVos’ proposed changes generally would minimize sexual misconduct-related Title IX regulations on colleges and universities, allowing schools more control over their definitions, policies and procedures, while requiring implementation of due process protections for the accused.

Georgetown’s current policy defines sexual misconduct as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature,” in accordance with the Obama guidance, while the new rules provide a more narrow definition that would decrease the types of reports to which the university is mandated to respond.

The new regulation would also allow schools to choose to apply a higher legal standard of proof for these cases — rather than “preponderance of the evidence” specified in the Obama guidance. Georgetown’s Office of Student Conduct uses standards of “more likely than not” and “clear and convincing,” depending on whether the violation falls into one of the university’s definitions of sexual misconduct.

The changes are set to have the force of law following the notice-and-comment period’s conclusion in January.

STAIV is asking the university to make an official comment to the Department of Education during this period that would demonstrate its support of the student body, according to STAIV member Andy Turner (SFS ’20).

“We want the rights protected for the complainant and the respondent — we want to make sure students are protected,” Turner said. “In our mind, this isn’t an issue of Betsy DeVos siding with perpetrators versus students; she’s siding with schools and institutions over their student bodies, and that’s what’s harming survivors.”

GUSA Senator Saham Ali (COL ’21), chair of student affairs and a member of STAIV, said she is seeking transparency about potential changes in the university’s Title IX policies.

“We, as a student body, have the right to know what’s going on with our rights, because these Title IX changes affect so many people on campus,” Ali said.

The Georgetown University Student Association senate passed a resolution Sunday reiterating the demands in STAIV’s letter. The resolution was also delivered to the president’s office Monday.

H*yas for Choice and Georgetown University College Democrats encouraged their respective members to advocate alongside STAIV by signing the letter and participating in its delivery.

STAIV’s unrecognized status enables the group to more easily accomplish its advocacy efforts, outgoing GUCD Chair Maria Cornell (SFS ’20) wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“STAIV has a lot more flexibility and freedom to do this work while directly combatting university policies and stances,” Cornell wrote.

Several of the students who sent a letter Aug. 31 to university administrators on the status of a dedicated Title IX coordinator and updates from the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Advisory Committee are leaders in STAIV and spearheaded its second letter-writing initiative this semester.

The writing and delivery of the letter, though immediately prompted by the proposal of the DeVos regulation, were equally motivated by problems the students look to resolve at Georgetown, Turner said.

“The knowledge that we were going to have Title IX changes really made us want to get Georgetown’s house in order,” Turner said. “And the knowledge that Georgetown’s house is not in order made us want to work on these national changes, too.”

Administrators who were recipients of the Aug. 31 letter responded with an in-person meeting, which students who attended said resulted in a few, but not all, of their requests being met.

The group is prepared to heighten its advocacy efforts in seeking a response, STAIV member Kory Stuer (COL ’19) wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“If Georgetown does not take the action we are demanding, we are willing to increase the pressure we’re putting on them,” Stuer wrote. “We’re in a moment of crisis, both on-campus and in this country, when it comes to sexual violence, and it’s time for Georgetown to start acting like it.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *