The Gustavian Weekly

Title IX experiences drastic changes nationwide: Members of the Gustavus community respond to rollback on Title IX legislation by the Trump administration

By Ella Napton - Staff Writer | October 13, 2017 | News

Title IX has been a staple on college campuses since its initiation in the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

It states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX, as many other mandates in America, is not safe from changes under any administration, the current administration included. In September of 2017 the Trump administration rolled out a refurbished Title IX plan.

But changes were expected at Gustavus in various ways as stated by JoNes Van Hecke, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students.

“Like many others in higher education, I had been anticipating changes.

Sexual misconduct is a challenge for colleges and universities, and I am committed to helping Gustavus address this issue in ways that are fair and equitable for both parties while simultaneously working to educate all Gusties about the importance of consent and bystander intervention” Van Hecke said.

The changes to Title IX were ultimately rescinding the Dear Colleague letter of 2011 and replacing them with new guidance.

But as a college we are not extremely affected by these changes to Title IX according to Patricia Dawson, the Title IX Coordinator here at Gustavus.

“We’re very compliant in the guidance that has been set up. I’m not concerned about the new recommendations.

Our goal is to have a very fair and equitable process as expected under the Office of Civil Rights, that’s what Title IX is about” Dawson said.

Gustavus’ main practice when it comes to sexual misconduct is using preponderance of evidence standard and have used this method for a good amount of time.

And these guidelines tend to fall in the direction that the Trump Administration’s changes outline. Both Van Hecke and Dawson are not worried about Gustavus’ ability to comply with the new standards.

The main changes to Title IX are that this administration has pulled back the 60 day window to complete an investigation.

Therefore, giving institutions longer to carry out an investigation. Moreover, the use of informal mediators is now allowed as long as both parties are willing and cooperative to use this method.

Furthermore, the changes are a “continuation of [the] ever-evolving process” that accompanies the substantial time and effort colleges and universities put into this issue according to Van Hecke.

“As I understand it, the latest guidance from the Department of Education’s (DOE)  Office of Civil Rights (OCR) indicates that the office is withdrawing its previous guidance documents (April 4, 2011 and April 29, 2014 Dear Colleagues letters) while it enters into a period of input solicitation on issues related to institution’s Title IX responsibilities specifically concerning sexual misconduct. What is helpful to understand is that some of the Dear Colleague letter guidance has subsequently been codified into law (Violence Against Women Act aka VAWA) and MN state statute and thus those aspects of the Dear Colleague letters can not be altered by the DOE/OCR”, Van Hecke said.

The concerns that may accompany the removal of the 60 day resolution period should not be raised. The way that Gustavus addresses and resolves misconduct on campus will not change because of the changes to Title IX, assures Van Hecke. The goal of the college is not to prolong a difficult process, but to resolve it as quickly as possible.

Moving forward, the Title IX team hopes to continue to raise awareness about Title IX and the issues that surround it by training staff and students of Gustavus. “Training our faculty and our students on the process, policy, and prohibited behavior under Title IX is critical.  A fair and equitable process is our focus,” Dawson said.

Dawson has support from a great amount of people at Gustavus as she takes over this position this year, Van Hecke included. Moving forward Van Hecke will “support the Title IX coordinator and Title IX team in their critical work while abiding by government guidance.”

Getting help is one of the first steps to resolving misconduct incidents, and no matter is too small to be reported. To get in contact with Patricia Dawson you can email her at pdawson@gustavus.edu or call her office at 507-933-6360. If one needs to get ahold of JoNes Van Hecke they can email her at jvanheck@gustavus.edu.

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