The Trump administration passed down new legislation regarding Title IX, affecting all schools that receive federal assistance. Colleges and universities had until Aug. 14 to adopt the new regulations.
The final guidelines, released in May, intend to ensure that students know their resources through education. The Department of Education used over 124,000 public comments to create the guidelines, and it adopted the theme, “restoring due process,” according to the Department of Education.
Most notably among the guidelines, the legislation introduced the controversial live trial and hearing process, also known as cross-examination. Opponents to cross-examination say that this lengthy process exposes survivors to the trauma of reliving and retelling the event many times in front of an audience. While in some cases, the accused and the accuser will be in the same room, provisions are in place to hold accusers in a separate room so that they do not have to see the person they are accusing. Supporters of the process cite that live hearings allow for a third-party adjudicator, or fact-finder, to discern the credibility of the statements. Previously, live hearings were not required in all cases.
The Obama administration encouraged schools to operate under a “preponderance of evidence,” using the most convincing evidence to proceed in Title IX reports, according to the Department of Education. This was met with hundreds of civil lawsuits from male students who claimed they had been falsely accused and lost access to their education. With the new regulations, statements that have not gone through the cross-examination process will not be considered verified evidence, according to a summary by the Department of Education.
The new guidelines do not affect John Brown University directly, although JBU is revising its policy. According to Amy Fisher, JBU’s Title IX coordinator, live hearings are now a required part of formal investigations. Live hearings will be conducted in the same room or through video conferencing. “The parties will have an advisor present with them at the hearing who will read questions to be asked of either party for cross-examination,” Fisher said. “A hearing officer will preside over the hearing and make the decision on whether or not the policy has been violated.” The regulations only apply to incidents that happened on campus or in educational programs through the university. Additionally, regulations apply only to incidents that occurred in the United States. JBU becomes aware of an allegation once an official with authority has been notified of the incident. The list of officials with authority includes the Title IX coordinator, assistant Title IX coordinator, associate vice president for academic administration, director of conduct, director of athletics and any campus safety officer.
According to JBU’s website, “The University is committed to the preservation of human dignity, and is particularly concerned about the possibility of harassment, whether sexual, racial, ethnic, or any other type.” Both JBU and the Trump administration’s amendments to Title IX focus on proper education about resources for victims. Questions about JBU’s Title IX procedure can be answered at JBU.edu/Title-IX or can be emailed to TitleIXCoordinator@jbu.edu.
Photo courtesy of Davide Cantelli