New Title IX guidelines to have little effect on university policies

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UO President Michael H. Schill and Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator Darci Heroy sent the following message to the campus community Sept. 24:

Dear University of Oregon community,

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday provided new interim guidance on Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex- and gender-based discrimination in education, which includes sexual harassment and violence

As was clearly stated in a recent reaffirmation of the University of Oregon’s strong commitment to Title IX, the new federal guidelines in no way erode our resolve to provide services to survivors, encourage those who experience sexual violence to seek help, and to be fair and equitable to all, including those accused.

We believe that the new guidance will have very little, if any, impact on our current policies and procedures related to Title IX. Over the last few years the University of Oregon has put tremendous time and energy into increasing staff and resources available to address the serious problem of campus sexual assault.  We remain as committed as ever to the goal of minimizing sexual violence and harassment.

At the highest level, the new federal Title IX guidelines continue to require schools to address sexual misconduct cases with fair, impartial, and timely investigations that are free from conflict of interest or bias. Those investigations must use either the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard to determine whether a violation of the student conduct code has occurred.

The UO’s policies and systems clearly meet those standards. We will continue to treat sexual misconduct cases the same way that we do other serious allegations of violations of our conduct code. The UO already uses a preponderance standard in its student conduct code investigations, including those related to Title IX, and we have no intention of moving away from that practice.

In addition, we are pleased the new guidance gives schools greater freedom to purse alternative resolution options, such as mediation, in cases where it is appropriate and both parties agree. Ultimately this provides us a greater ability to accommodate  the wishes of students.

Finally, the federal announcement is not related to, nor does it change, the UO’s new policy on reporting responsibilities for employees who learn that a student has experienced sexual assault or violence. Full details about the policy and employee responsibilities are listed on the Title IX website.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Darci Heroy
Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator