Q & A with Thomas Pederson, Director of Civil Rights Compliance & Title IX

Photo courtesy of CWU

Photo courtesy of CWU

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

How many Title IX cases were reported on campus in the last year? 3 years? 5 years? Can I request those numbers? 

2022 – 5 Title IX cases investigated (4 student and 1 employee) + 

12 Student / Employee Discrimination cases investigated (7 student and 5 employee) 

2021 – 1 Title IX case investigated (1 student) + 

11 Student / Employees Discrimination cases investigated (10 student and 1 employee) 

 A case can be investigated via the Student or the Employee Discrimination process if the complaint falls outside of Title IX. 

The 2020 Title IX rules narrowed the coverage of Title IX to the following: 

  1. Behaviors that happened off campus / outside the institution’s control are not subject to Title IX. 
  1. Narrowed the reporting timeline so that reporting party cannot have their complaint resolved under Title IX, if they filed their complaint after they stopped being affiliated with the institution (i.e., after they graduated, etc.) 
  1. Requires submission of a Formal Compliant by the complainant. 
  1. Changed the definition of Sexual Harassment to be “Severe, Pervasive and objectively offensive” – this raised the bar for holding individuals accountable under Title IX related to sexual harassment. 

The Department of Education is currently engaged in another rule-making process and we are anticipating changes to Title IX in 2023 that could roll back some of the changes made in 2020. 

What is the standard procedure when a Title IX case is reported? 

The procedure for when a report/disclosure or formal complaint is submitted to the Office of Civil Rights Compliance is to reach out to the reporting party/complainant to offer them a meeting to learn more about their rights, the investigative process, and the support resources available at CWU. 

The letter sent to the reporting party/complainant contains a variety of information about the purpose of the meeting, information about connecting with PATH, and the right to have an advisor present.  It also has a link to our webpage, and attached to the letter is a PDF of the “Know your Rights and Options” brochure, which will also be offered in hard copy at the meeting.  

Title IX 

Per Title IX – if there is a formal complaint filed and if the behavior alleged falls under Title IX, then the complaint will be assigned to an investigator, who will conduct the investigation and produce an investigation report. 

The investigation report will be shared with all parties and then forwarded to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which conducts and manages the Title IX hearing process for student cases. 

For employee cases, the report will be forwarded to HR, who will mange the hearing process for the Employee Title IX Committee. 

The Title IX hearing committees will make the decision on any violation of policy and outcomes. 

Student Discrimination process:

If the alleged behavior does not fall within Title IX, then the complaint may be investigated via the Student Discrimination process if the behavior alleged could be a violation of the Student Conduct Code or the employee discrimination process for employee complaints. 

The process of investigation, creating a report and forwarding of the report to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or HR would be almost the same. 

The decision on the report would be decided by a Student Conduct Officer or by the Appointing Authority (employees). 

How long has it taken your longest standing Title IX case to be resolved? Do they typically get resolved within 90 days? Why or why not? 

We aim to resolve all Title IX complaints within a reasonable amount of time – typically within 90 calendar days. However, each case is different, and some do take longer depending on specifics of the case, number of people to interview and reasonable requests for extensions, etc.  We keep all parties informed of our progress with weekly updates.  

Do you provide the rights of complainants in writing when they are initially meeting with the Title IX department? Is there proof of this?  

We provide the “Know Your Rights and Options” document in PDF form along with the initial letter to the parties, and we offer a hard copy to the parties at the initial meeting. 

What measures are taken to ensure those reporting feel safe?

We utilize supportive measures such as no contact orders during, and even after, complaints have been adjudicated. No contact orders are shared with the CWU Police Department. 

We evaluate the need for changing living and academic environments on campus, and we restrict access to certain locations on campus while we investigate the complaint. 

We also inform all parties—specifically respondents—of our non-retaliation policy.  

How are disciplinary actions for Title IX violations decided? Who decides? 

For Student Title IX cases, it would be the Student Title IX committee. 

For Employee Title IX cases, it would be the Employees Title IX Committee.  

Do you feel you have handled Title IX violations with any substantial error in recent years? Do you feel proud of how your department handles Title IX cases? 

There is always room to improve our work, but I am confident that the office has competent staff and investigators who strive to investigate cases in a timely and thorough manner using trauma-informed practices. One of our goals is to provide decision-makers with as much relevant information as possible and ensure that all parties engaged in the process feel they have been heard.  

What is your response to the “Cats Against Assault” Instagram account and movement on campus calling for improvement in Title IX handling? 

I think President Wohlpart, the administration and everyone involved in administering the Title IX process are committed to improving our work with these types of cases and, more broadly, remain engaged in how we can better educate and get involved in preventative work for our community when working with our campus partners. 

We don’t get it right every time, but we are committed to working with all constituents to continue to improve and build a safer community. 

Does the Title IX department and Human Resources ever ask students and complainants to sign non-disclosure agreements? Are they ever asked to sign something agreeing to stay silent? 

We have never asked any student to sign something to stay silent – this would be a violation of Title IX 

Any Complainant/Victim is free to share their experiences with whomever they would like. 

 Prior to May 2021, we did ask all parties in cases to sign an Evidence Disclosure agreement, which was done to acknowledge that parties were given “unredacted” reports that would include information typically protected by FERPA, such as students (including witnesses) and others involved in a case. 

We have since re-evaluated this practice, and for the past 18 months, we have not utilized any evidence agreements and have shared the investigation reports with only a notice that they are given access to sensitive and private information.