The past two years, since the Department of Education rescinded the Obama-era guidance on Title IX and began the rulemaking process anew, has been a waiting game for many higher education professionals. Student affairs administrators ranging from survivor advocates to Title IX coordinators to student conduct directors and hearing board officers have waited in limbo for updated regulations from the Office for Civil Rights within the Department. Institutions have faced criticisms by some activist groups, parents, and the Department itself for treating respondents in Title IX cases unfairly and even outright ignoring their due process rights.
In order to adjust the frame to align with what support services exist on campus for respondents, NASPA began a two-year-long research project, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, as well as student affairs administrators and experts from around the country to provide a more accurate picture of respondent rights on campus. The report, titled, Expanding the Frame: Institutional Responses to Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct, is now available for download.
The goal of the study was to assess the prevalence of respondent services on campuses, the institutional positionality of those services, and how those support services operate. The report outlines the broad range of services that are currently provided to responding parties in these cases, as well as how those services compare to the services provided to reporting parties. Of the more than 200 institutions that responded to the survey, 99% of them indicated that they were providing respondent support services in some form. Another 87% indicated that all of the support services they offer to the responding party are also available to the reporting party.
In spite of these strengths, the study also identified some areas for improvement. The following is a list of some other key takeaways from the report:
- There is no clear best practice or trend for the location of respondent services within institutions (i.e. within which office they are operated);
- Thirty-five percent of institutions did not inform the campus community about the existence of respondent services, while only 38% of those that actively educate their communities included that information in in-person presentations such as first-year student orientation sessions;
- There does not appear to be a comparable training opportunity for respondent service providers as there is for Title IX coordinators and survivor advocates.
As a result of this report, the researchers provided the first all-day, comprehensive training on the implementation of respondent support services at the 2020 NASPA Strategies Conferences. More than 30 student affairs administrators joined the presenters to work through the challenges and benefits of providing tailored support services for all students with problematic sexual behavior whether they have been found responsible, not responsible, or are reentering the institution after separation from the campus resulting from a sanction.
The report is an important reminder of the work that student affairs professionals undertake to ensure fair and equitable processes for all students involved in sexual misconduct cases on campus. NASPA hopes the report will be utilized as a resource for student affairs administrators who are working to implement or expand support services for students with problematic sexual behaviors. NASPA continues to be committed to ensuring that student affairs administrators’ perspectives and voices are heard in this national conversation on sexual misconduct as it evolves.