Yesterday, NASPA staff members were busy advocating on behalf of student affairs professionals in the public policy arena. Dr. Stephanie Gordon, Vice President of Professional Development; Dr. Jill Dunlap, Director for Research and Practice; Teri Lyn Hinds, Directory of Policy and Advocacy; and Allison Tombros Korman, Senior Director of Culture of Respect, met with staff from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Education about the changes to Title IX proposed by the Department of Education in its leaked Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The goal of the meeting was to discuss the financial impact of those proposed changes on institutions, student affairs professionals and ultimately students. This blog will outline what OMB is and how that office interacts with Title IX regulations.
If your work intersects with sexual misconduct cases in any way on campus, you probably have either seen or heard about the leaked Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from the U.S. Department of Education. Because this document has the potential to significantly change Title IX compliance, it has received a good amount of attention. Importantly, by going through the official rulemaking process, this regulation will be treated with more significance and permanence than sub-regulatory guidance. You can find more details on the differences between these types of guidance here. The NPRM will likely impact the work of student conduct officers, Title IX Coordinators, sexual assault prevention educators, victim advocates, respondent support providers, and anyone else who regularly works on these issues, including those who serve on hearing panels or appeals boards. Needless to say, any change to Title IX guidance will leave significant impression on the work of student affairs professionals, as the people primarily responsible for this work on campus.
As we have mentioned in many recent publications and blogs, there are multiple ways for student affairs professionals to have input into the changes being proposed by the U.S. Department of Education. NASPA has provided resources on how to craft an effective public comment, once the rules are officially published by the Department, either as an individual or an institution, or by joining together with other groups who are issuing similar statements. A little used opportunity that groups can also use to provide input in the process is by meeting with OMB to discuss the potential impact of any proposed rule before the rule is proposed. By keeping an eye on Reginfo.gov, associations and advocacy groups know when rules are under consideration, but don’t necessarily know the details of what will be in a given rule package.
Any Department that wants to issue a new rule (as opposed to sub-regulatory guidance, like a Dear Colleague Letter, that a Department can issue without public comment and which can be rescinded at any point) crafts the proposed rule and then sends it to OMB for review. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB reviews the proposed rule, looking at the costs and benefits of the changes proposed, the burdens that the rule would impose on those affected, and that the policy proposed is statutorily sound and in line with the White House’s policy objectives. Per Executive Order 12866, issued by President Clinton on September 30, 1993, OIRA has 90 days to complete its review, which may include meetings with groups who wish to provide input on the proposed rule. OIRA may, during their review, decide to return a rule to a Department along with recommendations for any changes or suggesting areas for reconsideration. The Department may then choose to either withdraw the rule or makes any changes it deems necessary before submitting the proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register.
Because meetings with OMB happen prior to the release of proposed rule, most groups who take advantage of this option speak in general terms about possible impact of upcoming rules. In the case of the leaked NPRM on Title IX, however, groups are able to provide input to OMB with more certainty, responding to specific aspects of the leaked proposed rule. NASPA staff met with OMB to address the potential impact of the leaked Title IX NPRM on institutions and those responsible for this work on campus. Our discussion centered on several items, specifically seeking to address the questions of burden and cost/benefit which fall under OIRA’s review criteria. Among the concerns raised were training costs that would be incurred if institutions have to significantly limit or alter the number of responsible employees to whom students can report sexual misconduct. Costs to change educational programming for students so that they understand to whom they can now report misconduct, and that the institution would only be accountable for investigating on-campus misconduct were also raised. We emphasized that students (and sometimes student affairs staff!) don’t understand where campus geography begins and ends and that the changes proposed would likely cause confusion among students seeking help after an assault.
The meeting with OMB was productive in that NASPA staff members conveyed, on behalf of the Association’s members, the impact of the proposed rule on student affairs staff members and the students that we support. NASPA’s policy and advocacy staff is always working to ensure that the voices of student affairs professionals are heard at the federal level on these important issues. Feel free to reach out to Jill Dunlap at [email protected] with any questions or specific information about NASPA’s meeting with OMB on the Title IX NPRM.