Changes to Title IX regulations the U.S. Department of Education approved in May required schools to update their own policies to remain in compliance with federal law. As of Aug. 14, Iowa State has a new Title IX Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence and Stalking policy in its online policy library. University employees are encouraged to read it.
Title IX prohibits gender-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.
Key changes to the federal Title IX regulations:
- Narrow the definition of sexual harassment by placing time and place restrictions on alleged incidents and "current" status on would-be complainants.
- Require live, face-to-face hearings (complainant and respondent may be in separate rooms) during the adjudication process and the opportunity to cross-examine all materials and witnesses presented as evidence.
While the changes are significant, Adrienne Lyles, associate director of the office of equal opportunity (OEO) said the regulations also left the door open for institutions to continue to address behaviors and incidents no longer covered under Title IX in other policies, handbooks or codes of conduct. And that is what Iowa State has done, she said.
A university committee tasked with developing other educational materials this fall that address the changes is seeking feedback through an online survey. Participants can share their questions or uncertainties about the policy changes and the impact on university procedures. Input is requested by Sept. 18.
"Regardless of the changes in the federal guidance or to university policy, our commitment to responding, resolving and offering support and resources to allegations of sexual harassment remains the same," said Lyles, who is a member of the university's Title IX coordinating team. "We have chosen to maintain our broad commitment to responding.
"No matter when it happened or where it occurred, the university is ready to respond."
To accomplish this, Lyles said Iowa State leaders revised, for example, the Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy in the policy library and the student code of conduct. In anticipation of the federal changes, she said OEO staff already had started to identify other university policies, handbooks or conduct codes that might be used to address prohibited behavior.
Lyles said another outcome of the federal changes is that adjudication processes will be separate for students, faculty, professional and scientific staff and merit staff. Those processes are outlined in a revised "Procedures, Applications and Guidance" document linked on the Title IX policy website.
Additionally, a formal complaint now must be filed even if a complainant wants an informal resolution to his or her case. Lyles said this can be discouraging to individuals who don't intend to pursue a formal resolution, but simply want to be heard or want to resolve a situation outside of a formal hearing.
Lyles said the OEO staff will continue to encourage potential complainants to contact their office as a first step. OEO staff will provide support, share resources and outline the process options. As before, contacting the EO office does not trigger a formal complaint or start an investigation.