The U.S. Department of Education issued new Title IX regulations last spring that went into effect in August. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 mandate 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.”
However, the new Title IX regulations contain provisions jeopardizing students’ rights to an education free of discrimination by making the reporting process for student survivors of sexual assault and harassment even more complicated, exclusionary, and potentially harmful.
IC Strike, an on-campus activist organization at Ithaca College dedicated to addressing issues pertaining to sexual assault, sent a letter on August 3 to the Ithaca College administration in response to growing student concerns about the new regulations.
IC Strike called on Ithaca College to commit to eight practices that would ensure that the new regulations do not have a negative impact on our student body and the Ithaca community, and that Ithaca College’s Title IX policies and the judicial process continue to be student-centered. In a statement issued August 17, the Title IX office addressed six of the letter’s eight demands. The two unaddressed demands were maintaining a time limit of 60 calendar days for the completion of investigations and changing the degrees of sexual abuse to match those of New York State.
IC Strike is hosting a Town Hall on Title IX on Thursday, September 24 at 12 noon to discuss IC Strike’s letter, and how our community’s needs are going to be prioritized and addressed in light of the Department of Education’s new regulations. Panelists will include the Title IX coordinator and a Judicial Affairs representative from Ithaca College, and representatives from the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County and IC Strike.
Click here to register to attend the Town Hall and submit questions. Participants can also submit questions during the event.
Text of the IC Strike letter, addressed to the Ithaca College president, provost, and Title IX coordinator:
On May 6th, the Department of Education issued its Final Rule changing the Title IX obligations of all schools receiving federal funding. Consistent with the harmful rhetoric and anti-survivor ideology Secretary DeVos has brought to the Department, the Rule contains dangerous provisions that go against best practices, tip the scales against survivors, and jeopardize tens of thousands of students’ civil right to an education free from discrimination.
This rule will have devastating consequences for students and their families. Specifically, the rule will require schools to only investigate the most extreme forms of harassment and assault, require schools to ignore most violence that occurs off-campus, require live hearings and direct cross-examination of complainants and respondents by each of their chosen representatives, and allow needless delays in the completion of Title IX investigations. Altogether, these changes will discourage survivors from coming forward and utilizing the Title IX process at their schools, resulting in rampant sexual violence going unaddressed.
We, as students and community members, are calling on Ithaca College to uphold the civil rights of all students on campus. Multiple sections within the rule give schools discretion to choose how policies are implemented. We urge Ithaca College to commit to taking sexual violence seriously by choosing the options that would create the least harm for student survivors.
Below, we have listed our call to the University, which asks for your clear commitment to maintaining the safest and fairest policies that are legal under the Final Rule.
We, students and alumni of Ithaca College call on the University to commit to:
1. Establishing the preponderance of the evidence as the standard of evidence in all campus sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases. Preponderance of the evidence is the only standard that values the education of both complainants and respondents equally.
2. [Maintaining/establishing] a time limit of sixty calendar days for the completion of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases, with exceptions only for substantial extenuating circumstances. Lengthy investigations are emotionally taxing on survivors, often causing students to drop-out before their cases are complete. Drawn-out timelines are bad for complainants and respondents alike, leaving them uncertain of where things stand with their schools.
3. Continuing to respond promptly to reports of and carrying out existing investigations into sexual misconduct during the global health crisis. The new rule makes clear that Title IX processes may continue remotely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rights of student complainants and respondents alike hinge on schools maintaining their commitment to prompt and equitable investigations even during these unprecedented times.
4. Guaranteeing all students access to reasonable interim measures regardless of where or when the violence or discrimination they experienced took place. The serious effects of violence and discrimination merit accommodations whether a student was harmed on-campus, on a study-abroad trip, or in their private apartment.
5. Creating and following sexual misconduct procedures for investigating otherwise not covered instances of off-campus and study abroad violence. While the rule does not allow formal Title IX investigations of off-campus violence, schools can still create separate sexual misconduct policies that ensure students can report off-campus violence. Whether you are raped in your on-campus dorm room or in another country, having to see your rapist in the class equally interrupts your education.
6. Changing the degrees of sexual abuse to match that of New York State’s.
7. Barring the use of informal resolution mechanisms including but not limited to mediation in cases of sexual assault, rape, dating, and domestic violence, and stalking that is an extension of such violence. It is widely agreed upon that mediation is an inappropriate and even unsafe measure in these types of situations.
8. Following the Department of Education’s rescinded 2016 guidance on protecting LGBTQ+ students in order to ensure all students have equal access to a safe learning environment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
We call on the University to issue a written public statement declaring its commitment to these eight policies by AUGUST 14th.
As dedicated members of this community, we believe in holding our institution to the highest standards. With a federal government that is failing students, it is up to institutions to assume leadership in defending our education by protecting our civil rights. We look forward to seeing Ithaca College issue its public statement in the coming days.
—By Hope Gardner
Hope Gardner is president and co-founder of IC Strike. She is a senior at Ithaca College majoring in Spanish and Culture & Communication