Work continues to fully implement new Title IX regulations at CWU

Mitchell Roland, Editor-in-Chief

As the new school year begins and some students return to campus, new Title IX rules around sexual misconduct are in the process of being implemented on college campuses across the country.

Passed in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act bans sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. This means that K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities must comply with rules such as offering the same number of sports to males and females and outlining a process around sexual misconduct policy.

In May, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos outlined sweeping changes to the policy which were to be implemented by an Aug. 14 deadline. The Washington state Attorney General’s office provided guidelines to all public institutions in the state to ensure these schools abide by both the guidelines as well as Washington state law.

These rules outline everything from who is required to report, to where universities have allegations to report, to what happens after a report has been made. Staci Sleigh-Laymen, CWU’s Title IX coordinator, said there are major differences between the old rules and the new rules.

“Part of what you have to keep in mind is that this was a massive change,” Sleigh-Laymen said.

Joseph Bryant, the executive director of student rights and responsibilities, said these rules define both what sexual misconduct is and where the Title IX coordinator can investigate.

“It has narrowly defined not only the definition of what they consider sexual harassment, but also the location of which they say falls under Title IX,” Bryant said.

The new policy is that Title IX protections now applies only to events that physically take place on CWU’s campus. This means if there were a report of sexual misconduct at a university-sponsored event that takes place off-campus, it will no longer be a Title IX issue.

“The new regulations limit our jurisdiction to only on-campus activities,” Sleigh-Layman said. “I also want to be clear that we still have our regular process.”

While these allegations are no longer subject to Title IX rules, they still subject to student conduct code that forbids sexual discrimination, racial discrimination and sexual assault.

“We can use that policy to adjudicate things that happen within our programs that are off-campus,” Sleigh-Layman said. “We just can’t use the [Title IX] procedures to do that.”

Bryant said an investigation will still take place if an allegation is off-campus, but it may look different than a typical Title IX investigation.

“The difference is going to be if a situation happened on campus versus if it happened in an apartment or a house in the city, that the investigative requirements may not be the same. We will still do an investigation, but that doesn’t require if it happens in the city that it goes to a live hearing panel with live cross-examination that would then just fall under our normal student conduct procedures.”

Bryant said there will be “some minor procedural pieces that aren’t required” if an allegation were to occur off-campus. However, the university is committed to ensuring the process is fair.

“We want to make sure that the process, regardless, and that’s one of my biggest concerns, is the process. Regardless of where the behavior happened,” Bryant said. “If it’s the same behavior it should be responded to and managed similarly.”

A change in rules that’s yet to be fully determined is who on campus is required to report sexual misconduct. Under old rules, anyone on campus who was deemed to be a responsible employee was required to report allegations. All staff and faculty members were designated as responsible employees at CWU.

However, the new rules state that only officials with authority are required to report allegations to the Title IX coordinator. Sleigh-Laymen is still talking with the faculty union as well as the other two civil service unions on campus to ensure the new wording and reporting requirements are approved by them.

“My sense is that the university will continue to have faculty and staff as responsible employees, but we haven’t actually made that final decision yet. We are still expecting at this moment in time that faculty and staff will report any behaviors that they are concerned about,” Sleigh-Laymen said. 

Bryant said these rules streamline the process around allegations on campus, as the Title IX coordinator is now responsible for reaching out to parties involved, informing them of resources available and what their options are.

“Previously, all the things I just mentioned were housed under student rights and responsibilities for students before, or under [human resources] for employees before,” Bryant said. “Now, the Title IX coordinator is going to do all of that regardless of which one and then the reports will be handed off to the appropriate bodies to then conduct hearings before a live hearing panel.”

While there are still more procedures to be finalized and requirements to be defined, Sleigh-Laymen said the university would still do its best to ensure any Title IX complaint would follow these new guidelines.

“The federal regulations went into effect August 14th and we would certainly do our best to ensure that we use those regulations to adjudicate any sexual harassment, sexual assault that came forward before we were absolutely solid,” Sleigh-Laymen.

Sleigh-Laymen said the fall quarter will test these guidelines, although it could be difficult since a majority of classes are online.

“I think what’s part of what you do when you put procedures in places that you wait for the cases to test it,” Sleigh-Laymen said. “And I suspect that we will have fewer cases because we have fewer students on campus.”