How are the new Title IX regulations that went into effect a few weeks ago affecting requirements for student Title IX training, if at all?
Glen: The new Title IX regs have no direct student training component. That said, there is a direct requirement for colleges and universities to prepare and disseminate compliant non-discriminatory Title IX notices/statements and adopt and publish related grievance policies to students. Accordingly, students should receive notice of the college’s updated policies—including the likely changes brought about by the new regulations.
How has the University of Chicago responded to the new Title IX regulations in effect this year?
Megan: When the new regulations were issued on May 6, the university took steps involving staff, faculty, and as many students that could engage over the summer quarter to engage in this discussion. The Equal Opportunity Programs Office facilitated listening sessions for students over the summer to share current policies and anticipated changes, and facilitated a Q&A to allow students to share concerns, comments, and feedback.
Additionally, the office also created and utilized an online feedback form for community members to share feedback and questions about the new regulations. Bridget Collier was instrumental in this project and we truly benefited from having an authentic and experienced leader during this time.
Why is sexual assault prevention/Title IX training for students still important this year, even with many college students remote or off-campus?
Glen: For several important reasons, sexual assault prevention training remains essential notwithstanding the remote nature of college life. First, many studies have identified repeated, interactive, dynamic training/educational opportunities as being important for effectively communicating sexual assault prevention training.
Second, once students return to campus, such training will be all the more important given that students will be excited to be back on-campus and might exercise less caution than normal.
Third, elements of the new Title IX regs fundamentally change the scope of a college’s Title IX proceedings by, among other things, narrowing the scope of what an institution can address under Title IX and what may need to be addressed under a school’s student code of conduct process—all of which may change reporting lines that are often a part of sexual assault prevention training.
Finally, the data shows that over the last six months, interpersonal relationship violence has not abated but appears to have increased, given the exacerbation of relevant stressors and control factors during our response to the pandemic – making prevention training and resource education more important than ever.
Megan: If anything, training is even more important this year. We took a more holistic approach and invited in our prevention educators to highlight the importance of prevention and harm reduction during this time. We not only included our traditional content including office information, regulations, and policies around campus, but also included information on community building in online spaces, information about university policy extending into online spaces as well as the extended services our office has with community organizations, even if students are outside the university location.
What should your students be aware of this year around preventing sexual misconduct, given that many students are not fully on campus?
Megan: We are spending time emphasizing consent and communication in online spaces. We strongly recommend that students think through the nuances of being online – from consent to navigating relationships to how they are showing tone over messaging. Adapting an in-person personality to an online space can be challenging but we encourage them to think through their intent and impact as they are communicating and creating community with each other online.
Additionally as a reminder, we share this information with them:
When someone tells you to stop, or does not respond to your request, or does not give you explicit permission to share something of theirs, that should be respected.
Make sure to keep clean lines of communication, and honest and upfront conversations about shifting boundaries are just as important online as they are in person.
If you have questions or want to talk through a situation, our office always here for you to consult.
With the upcoming election, could we see more changes to Title IX regs within the next year?
Glen: The Trump administration has issued a series of “technical assistance” blogs to clarify aspects of the new Title IX regulations and we would expect that to continue as schools continue to pose questions to the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights.
In addition, Joe Biden has promised to put a quick end to the new rule in January 2021 if elected President. Biden has criticized the new rule as giving “colleges a green light to ignore sexual violence and strip survivors of their rights. It lets colleges off the hook for protecting students, by permitting them to choose to investigate only more extreme acts of violence and harassment and requiring them to investigate in a way that dissuades survivors from coming forward.”
About Megan: Megan Heckel-Greco is the Associate Director in the Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Support and a Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students at the University of Chicago. She is responsible for the creation and implementation of training and supplemental educational sessions.
About Glen: Glen Kraemer, a founding and managing partner of employment law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, represents higher education institutions across the U.S., and serves as General Counsel to Pomona College. He is nationally recognized for his passionate delivery of “best practices” training programs.
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