Back in April, NASPA conducted a series of listening sessions on Title IX in anticipation of what was then expected to be a late April notice of proposed rulemaking announcement from the Department of Education (ED). In anticipation of that process, NASPA held a series of nine listening sessions with more than 250 student affairs administrators. Although the timeline for the NPRM process has since been delayed until September or possibly October, NASPA has compiled several themes from the listening sessions which will ultimately be used to guide NASPA in its official comments to ED as an association. The comments we received represent a diverse range of opinions from student affairs professionals whose roles involve an array of vantage points and connectedness to sexual misconduct cases.
Most participants in the listening sessions indicated that they had not made large-scale policy or procedural changes regarding sexual misconduct since the issuance of interim guidance by ED. Many indicated that their institutions had communicated a message to that effect to reassure students that they still plan to take these cases seriously. As the process has been repeatedly delayed, NASPA has continued to hear from members, and to stress to the Department, that existing under interim guidance for so long has also caused frustrations for those doing this work every day on campus.
While there are conflicting feelings among student affairs professionals about the removal of the 60 day timeline under the Obama administration, many participants expressed concern about the complete lack of a timeline under the interim guidance. Among NASPA’s priorities for the notice and comment period include encouraging ED to reaffirm the preponderance of the evidence standard for sexual misconduct cases and provide further guidance around the nature of informal resolutions processes that campuses may use.
Some participants in the listening sessions indicated that there was a bit of relief among investigators about the elimination of the 60-day timeline for completing investigations. Other participants expressed unease about there being no timeline or what is meant by the Department’s “reasonableness” standard in completing the investigations. And still other participants believed that it will be difficult for both respondents and complainants to invest in a process without clear timelines for how it will take to complete. The greatest point of agreement centered on the idea that if a new timeline is established under future guidance, that clear expectations about calendar days versus academic days and flexibility with regard to the process will be essential.
On this topic again, there were a broad range of opinions. Some participants expressed serious hesitation about opening the door to the use of informal resolutions without more guidance about what type of informal resolutions will be allowed. Others agreed saying that certain types of informal resolutions require well-trained staff to ensure that the processes don’t disadvantage either respondents or complainants and that any process used is trauma-informed. Still others indicated that the lifting of the prohibition on informal resolutions will allow them to explore alternatives that are both less adversarial and also very much informed by complainants’ wishes.
In many instances, NASPA members who participated in the listening sessions agreed that institutions aren’t in a place where they are likely to roll back progress toward better adjudication of campus sexual misconduct that have been achieved in recent years. Many participants indicated that they would continue to keep certain aspects of their current policies, such as appeals processes for both complainants and respondents, regardless of ED’s stance that only the respondent must be allowed to access an appeal process.
Overall, NASPA members agree that whatever guidance comes from ED on Title IX, it should be evidence-based and equitable for both parties engaged in a Title IX process. The participants also agreed that ED should continue to work with campuses and those student affairs professionals doing this work every day to engage them on any changes to future guidance. Finally, NASPA members also agree that future guidance should provide protections for students engaged in Title IX misconduct cases, while giving institutions the flexibility to comply with the guidance while meeting the unique needs of their students and campuses.
Please see the following for more information on NASPA’s positions on Title IX guidance and trans-student guidance afforded under Title IX. And keep engaged with the NASPA Research and Policy blog for news and updates about forthcoming Title IX guidance from the Department of Education.
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