Universities raise concerns about proposed Title IX rule changes

February 4, 2019 - 10:52am

Proposed changes to a federal rule would hurt the University of Oregon’s efforts to address campus sexual misconduct, joint letters to the U.S. Department of Education state.

UO President Michael H. Schill joined other Oregon public university presidents to comment on the proposal. Associate Vice Provost for Civil Rights Darci Heroy, who is also the UO’s Title IX coordinator, also joined other university Title IX officials from Oregon in submitting separate comments.

The proposed rule would affect how universities respond to survivors and to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Wednesday was the deadline for submitting comments.

Both letters expressed concern that the department’s approach would be too rigid and would not allow universities the flexibility to appropriately address the range of circumstances presented in cases of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault. That would set back work that’s already been done to improve campus programs and responses, the letters say.

“We fear that the recent advances on our campuses will be undone,” the letter from university presidents states.

Another effort is being led by the American Council on Education, the largest  higher education association with 1,700 institutions. More than 60 higher education associations and alliances signed on to comments by the council raising significant concerns about the proposed changes.

While letter says some of changes could help, it warns that others would hurt university efforts to fairly respond to sexual misconduct.

“The proposed rule contains a number of provisions that raise serious concerns because they would undermine our ability to address sexual harassment on campus and to ensure prompt, equitable, and fundamentally fair resolutions of such allegations,” the letter says.

In addition, more than 100,000 other individuals and organizations have submitted comments on the proposed changes. All comments are publicly available at the Department of Education’s online portal.