The College will not, at present, change any of its Title IX/sexual misconduct investigation or adjudication procedures in response to the rescission of Obama-era guidance on handling such cases by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
On Sept. 22, OCR announced that it would be rescinding the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter from 2011 and a subsequent “Q&A” guidance document from 2014. This letter provided legal guidance on how colleges should respond to and adjudicate sexual misconduct cases in accordance with Title IX, a federal statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender in higher education. The Obama-era guidance included the use of a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for adjudicating sexual misconduct cases, rather than “clear and convincing evidence.” It also delineated a 60-day maximum timeframe for case resolution, allowed appeals from both the complainant and respondent and discouraged cross-examination and the use of informal resolutions for sexual misconduct cases. The OCR’s guidance letters from 2001 and 2006 will remain the legal standard for institutions of higher education in handling sexual misconduct complaints.
The change in guidance, though, will not affect the College’s policies and practices. “The recent changes in guidance from the Department of Education (DOE) do not require any changes in the College’s current sexual misconduct policies, and at this point no changes have been made,” Toya Camacho, Title IX coordinator and assistant vice president for institutional diversity and equity, said.
According to OCR’s press release surrounding the rescission, colleges can retain many of their current adjudication procedures, so long as a consistent standard is applied across all disciplinary cases, not just sexual misconduct ones.
Camacho also emphasized that the College continually evaluates its Title IX response and adjudication procedures and will disseminate notice of any changes. “We are continuing to review the new guidance, which includes the withdrawal of the DOE’s 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ guidance, to determine whether there are changes to be made that might improve our current policies, and we will of course notify the community if any such changes are adopted,” Camacho said.
The change in OCR guidance does not constitute any change to colleges’ and universities’ legal obligations. “The rescission letter and Q&A do not add requirements to applicable law,” OCR’s press release said.
Camacho noted that OCR has begun the process of considering legally-binding changes, and that the College will remain abreast of such developments. “If that process results in new regulations (which, unlike ‘guidance,’ will have the force of law), we will then make any changes necessary to bring the College’s policies into conformance with any revised legal requirements,” she said.