New federal rules — that critics say will make reporting sexual misconduct on college campuses more difficult — will take effect in August, but it’s too soon to see how Loyola will adopt them.
The Trump administration passed new Title IX regulations May 6 that narrow the definition of sexual harassment and bolster due process rights for the accused. The way universities implement Title IX — a federal law preventing discrimination in schools based on sex — was previously guided by a 2011 letter from the Obama administration.
The letter was withdrawn in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Education headed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a Trump appointee. But unlike the previous guidelines, the new regulations — called the Final Rule — carry the force of law. After the new regulations were first proposed in 2018, the Department of Education received over 124,000 public comments that were considered when writing the final version.
Loyola is reviewing the new 2,000-page regulations and will assess how to integrate them into Loyola’s current procedures over the next few months, according to Anna Rozenich, a Loyola spokesperson. It’s unclear what adjustments Loyola may need to make to be compliant with the new regulations.
Tim Love, the Title IX coordinator and executive director for the university’s Office for Equity and Compliance, couldn’t be reached for comment. Mira Krivoshey, the assistant director of health promotion for Loyola’s Wellness Center and a certified sexual assault advocate, declined to comment.
The Department of Education’s new policy is meant to hold colleges accountable when they don’t respond properly to sexual misconduct complaints while protecting due process rights for the accused, according to a press release from DeVos.
As The Phoenix previously reported, the new regulations narrow the definition of sexual harassment, allow universities to choose between two standards of evidence and establish specific procedures colleges must follow when investigating formal complaints, including a live hearing process.
Organizations such as End Rape on Campus (EROC) — a survivor advocacy organization — have criticized these changes, including the live hearings, saying they are re-traumatizing and question a survivor’s credibility.
Kenyora Parham, executive director of EROC, said the addition of “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to the definition of sexual harassment is problematic because it means students will have to endure more trauma before the school is required to investigate.
“The sexual harassment definition needs to change,” Parham told the Phoenix. “No student should have to endure high levels of repeated abuse for them to be seen by the school.”
Parham also expressed concerns over the elimination of the 60-day time limit for investigations because universities often surpassed this benchmark even when that guideline was in place.
“Even with the 60-day limit, schools frequently drew out investigations for months or a year,” she said. “Now they are allowed to take survivors through a long and traumatizing process that may lead them to drop out of the investigation or school entirely.”
In recent years, Loyola had been criticized for not investigating Title IX complaints in a timely manner, allowing a student expelled for rape to walk at graduation and allowing a professor accused of sexually harassing students to continue teaching.
Another concern is whether penalties will be enforced for schools that don’t meet the new requirements because Title IX guidelines haven’t always been enforced in the past, Parham said.
In the original proposal in 2018, universities would’ve been required to respond to complaints that occurred within the “school’s education program or activity.” Now this has been expanded to explicitly include buildings owned or controlled by student organizations, such as fraternity and sorority houses.
Under the Final Rule, universities also need to get voluntary consent from the victim to use any “informal resolution,” such as mediation. It also prohibits any informal resolutions when an employee sexually harasses a student.
The updated regulations require schools to offer both parties an equal right to appeal the verdict and must provide a written document explaining how and why the decision-maker reached their official conclusion.
Other groups such as the American Council on Education (ACE) — a major coordinating body for the nation’s higher education institutions — criticize both the new rules and the timeline required by the proposal. The release of the regulations with an August deadline is “as cruel as it is counter-productive,” because it doesn’t give schools enough time to make the changes, ACE President Tom Mitchell said in a press release.
Parham said many students with open Title IX cases have reached out to EROC because there’s been no clarification on what will happen to their case as the rules shift.
DeVos has been criticized in the past for scaling back investigations into civil rights violations and advocating for charter schools or vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private school.
The Department of Education directed The Phoenix to its press release for comment.
The original version of this article said The Department of Education didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for comment. That was incorrect. It has been fixed.