The U.S. Department of Education has mandated a new Title IX policy, effective Aug. 14, updating the measures higher education institutions, like the University of Tennessee at Martin, use to address sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking cases involving students, employees and third-party university contractors.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Through the Title IX policy, UT Martin works to create and maintain a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living and working environment free from sexual harassment. The purposes of the Title IX policy are to define and prevent the effects of prohibited conduct including sexual assault, rape, fondling, incest, statutory rape, dating and domestic violence, stalking, sexual exploitation and retaliation; identify support and reporting options for students and employees; address all university employees’ obligation as mandatory reporters; and identify the grievance procedures the university conducts to thoroughly investigate any reports of prohibited conduct.
“These are significant changes to our policy that will provide equality and due process to all parties involved in this process,” said Joe Henderson, UT Martin Title IX coordinator. “Please be patient as we work through these new changes to strengthen our university community.”
The major changes to the Title IX policy include:
- Prohibited conduct: The previous regulations, titled “Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking,” has been expanded to include a broader definition of prohibited conduct, and is now titled the “Policy on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating and Domestic Violence, and Stalking.” To be considered sexual harassment, the actions must be unwelcome conduct, severe, pervasive, objectively offensive and denies equal access to the university’s educational programs.
- Supportive measures: Both the complainant (alleged victim) and respondent (accused) have to be provided with equal access to supportive measures in order to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. Supportive measures include access to medical care, counseling, legal resources, housing and classroom relocation and more.
- Investigations: In order for an investigation to begin, the complainant must submit a written formal complaint to the Title IX coordinator to request an investigation. Also, investigative procedures now include mandatory written notices to each party involved in the investigation.
- Hearing process: A hearing officer will now oversee the hearing process to determine what actions will result from the evidence provided during the hearing. Previously, the Title IX coordinator made recommendations at the conclusion of the investigation; however, under the new regulations, it will fall to the hearing officer’s judgment. Both the complainant and the respondent will now also have access to the assistance of an adviser during the investigation and hearing process who will be responsible for cross-examining participants in the hearing on behalf of their party.
The obligation of all university employees as mandatory reporters has not changed with the new regulations. Training for the new Title IX policy will be required in the fall.
The University of Tennessee System has worked since the announcement on May 6, 2020, to overhaul the current operating Title IX and student conduct policies in compliance with the new regulations. On Aug. 4, the UT Board of Trustees approved the recommended changes to the policy.
UT Martin’s new Title IX policy can be read at utm.edu/sexualmisconduct. For more information, contact Henderson at 731-881-3505 or email@example.com.