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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

National changes to Title IX guidelines may affect university protocol

By Jimmy Goulding

 

Sexual assault is a problem on college campuses across the U.S.

Survivors of this crime are left hurt, traumatized and often don’t know what to do next.

On every college campus it is required to have an office of individuals who can help those assaulted, the Title IX office.

Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions from kindergarten through higher education and applies to students, faculty and staff.

Western’s Title IX coordinator Sue Guenter-Schlesinger is passionate about Title IX and any law that protects at-risk individuals.

“It’s important to know that Title IX covers every aspect of sex discrimination whether it’s sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination or sexual violence,” Guenter-Schlesinger said.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced late September she plans on rolling back Obama-era guidelines of Title IX that help protect students against sexual violence.

These rollbacks include rescinding the “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011 as well as a document commonly referred to as the Q&A document. Both provided new guidelines for schools on how to handle sexual assault.

These possible changes to the Title IX code have some students concerned.

Senior Ali Brenes, the coordinator of Planned Parenthood Generations, a group on campus focused on reproductive justice, has put together a campaign in support of Obama-era guidelines.

Participants are composing handwritten postcards addressed to President Randhawa voicing why Title IX is important to them.

“With Betsy DeVos rolling back a lot of the Title IX guidelines we really wanted to tell the administration that those aren’t our values and we are not comfortable with that,” Brenes said.“We want to see actual action on this issue.”

Once the club has collected 500 letters, they plan on dropping them off on President Randhawa’s desk. They are currently halfway to meeting their goal.

The Q&A document, published in 2014 by the Office of Civil Rights, provided extensive guidelines for schools on how to respond to reports of sexual violence, including procedural requirements under Title IX.

“[It] served as a foundational document that has allowed us to understand how to implement the Title IX program in a way that I feel is very robust. I continue to feel that way,” Guenter-Schlesinger said. “It was more of a blueprint on how to proceed and is survivor-centered and focused on due process for all involved.”

Although these guidelines have been rescinded, schools still have the option to follow much of what was in the 2014 guidelines, and currently Western still is, Guenter-Schlesinger said.

It is uncertain what the future of Title IX will be at Western.

Guenter-Schlesinger said her colleagues within her field think there will be a question on what the standard of proof is.

The current standard of proof has been and remains preponderance of evidence, which means in a court case the evidence must show that it is more likely than not that the events did happen.

“I am hoping that the standard of evidence isn’t going to be changed in how we deal these issues, but I understand that is one of the things that [the Office of Civil Rights] is looking at changing in their final regulations,” Guenter-Schlesinger said.

Students for Anti-Racist Action has also joined this postcard campaign in a move of solidarity between the two clubs.

Junior Kate Rayner Fried, a member of Students for Anti-Racist Action was one who took part in this campaign.

“I think it’s a physical way to show solidarity and support for victims of sexual violence and it’s really important to hold ourselves and each other accountable for what goes on on our campus,” Rayner Fried said.

Rayner Fried hopes President Randhawa upholds current Title IX regulations on campus, and that it helps people to begin working towards solutions for these issues, she said.

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