Georgetown University administrators and students have expressed disappointment with the latest federal revisions to Title IX rules, raising concerns that the changes will reverse hard-fought progress in sexual assault prevention on campus.
Signed into law in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in academic institutions receiving federal funding and outlines procedures to investigate sexual misconduct on campuses. The new regulations, published by the Department of Education on May 6, tighten definitions of sexual misconduct and limit the scope of misconduct claims schools must investigate. They also introduce a slate of procedures to “ensure a fair and transparent process” for the accused.
The finalized regulations require schools to hold in-person hearings in which both the accuser and the accused can be cross-examined, a process many sexual assault prevention groups claim is traumatic for assault victims. The DOE also reduced the investigative responsibility of schools, stating that schools only need to investigate cases that occur on campus or in school programs or school-sanctioned organizations. The new changes are set to go into effect August 14.
The Georgetown administration has expressed frustration with the new changes and the short time frame in which they must be administered.
“We are deeply disappointed the new regulations do not reflect many of the concerns we raised through our formal comment to the Department of Education and are very concerned by the short time frame colleges and universities have been given to implement these complex regulations during such difficult times,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The DOE released its proposed Title IX changes in 2018 and allowed the public to submit complaints and propose alterations. The proposed rules upended Obama-era Title IX policies, which lowered the standard of evidence needed in sexual assault cases and introduced a slate of procedures to tackle sexual assault on college campuses. Georgetown sent an 11-page letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in January 2019, advocating against cross-examination and stricter evidentiary standards.
The DOE’s new Title IX standards will hinder efforts to confront sexual misconduct on campus, according to H*yas For Choice Co-Organizing Director Katarina Watson (COL ’21).
“Our stance is that these regulations further promote an agenda of protecting the institution and the accused. They are adding limits and narrowing definitions while we desperately need the opposite,” Watson wrote in a message to The Hoya. “These regulations allow institutions to ignore the incredibly severe and prevalent issue of sexual assault and everything that comes with it.”
Watson is also a member of “Title IX for a New Generation,” a student-designed women’s and gender studies class that was offered for the first time this spring. Taught by professor Sara Collina, the course focused on educating students on the Title IX system at Georgetown. The class will be offered again in the fall.
The Title IX revisions will disincentivize reporting of sexual misconduct and downplay the needs of survivors, according to Miranda Wesley (NHS ’22), another member of the Title IX class.
“The regulations seem to unnecessarily protect schools and the accused a lot more than survivors and complainants. There is no more 60-day time limit, so schools can draw out cases for even longer. Cross-examination can now be required, which is extremely harmful and traumatizing,” Wesley wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I am opposed to the new regulations because they will deter many survivors from coming forward and having an equal education.”
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