On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released extensive new regulations governing campus response to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence under Title IX. A small working group met weekly over the summer to digest the 2,000+ pages of information and draft a new policy and procedures to comply with the new regulations. The group also collaborated with UND’s Committee on Sexual Violence Prevention & Response and the President’s Executive Council to make key recommendations about the new policy. The new Title IX and Sexual Violence Policy took effect on Aug. 14, 2020, the effective date of the new regulations.
The new Title IX regulations contain significant changes to the way universities respond to sexual misconduct. For example, the regulations narrow the definition of sexual harassment, meaning that some conduct that has been prohibited by UND in the past now falls outside the Title IX definition. In addition, under the new regulations, an alleged off-campus sexual assault would not need to be investigated by UND. However, because the safety of our campus community is a priority, the Title IX and Sexual Violence Policy will address reports of off-campus sexual violence, as well. UND’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy and the Code of Student Life will address on- and off-campus conduct that does not meet the new Title IX definition.
The new regulations also contain changes to investigation and adjudication procedures. One of the more substantive changes is the requirement to hold live hearings and allow cross-examination by advisors in cases involving students, faculty and staff. However, the regulations also provide for informal resolution processes to allow the parties voluntarily agree on an outcome.
“It’s important for our UND community to understand that UND will continue to address conduct that conflicts with our University values and violates our policies. That hasn’t changed,” says Donna Smith, director of Equal Opportunity & Title IX and UND’s Title IX Coordinator. “Our focus is to first provide support and resources to impacted students and employees in the way that best meets their individual needs. Any formal process that follows will be implemented fairly and equitably.”
“UND is committed to implementing processes that reflect the new federal guidance and to achieve our goal of a safe community. When allegations of misconduct occur, the university stands ready to offer the resources necessary to support those involved,” says UND President Andrew Armacost.
UND employees involved in the new grievance process have received extensive training on the new regulations throughout the summer. In addition, employees and students have been enrolled in annual training that reflects the new regulations.
Because the new regulations were rolled out and became effective when many campus members were away for the summer or had their attentions focused on the pandemic, the new Title IX Policy was approved by President Armacost as an interim policy. Students, faculty and staff will have an opportunity to offer comments until September 9 by going directly to the Policy Comment Periods & Approvals webpage. Smith expects the policy to evolve a bit over the next several months as we learn more about the Department of Education’s expectations.