What You Need to Know About New Federal Title IX Regulations
Federal regulations related to Title IX have changed and Wentworth officials want to make sure that members of the community are up to speed.
Enacted in 1972, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and sexual misconduct in education programs or activities. Alterations have been made over time to update language or change processes, including 2017 when several changes were first proposed by the Trump administration.
The most recent changes released by the Department of Education—which took effect on August 14—include a heightened emphasis on due process “which is afforded to the parties involved in sexual misconduct incidences which impact educational activities and program, such as those which happen on campus,” said Title IX Coordinator Beth Devonshire.
For Title IX-related offences, a live hearing is now required in which all parties, including complainants, respondents and witnesses, are cross-examined by the party’s advisors. Additionally, all parties must be able to see and hear each other during the process, either in person or via a video service like Zoom. Devonshire explained that procedures for incidences which fall outside of Title IX related offenses have also been updated, but do not involve cross-examination conducted by the party’s advisors.
“While I recognize that the process might be overwhelming for some, we encourage people to come forward and know that there are retaliation protections for all those involved in the process,” said Devonshire, adding that supportive measures are available regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed.
Devonshire and university officials have been working since May 6—when the new regulations were first announced—to ensure that Wentworth is complying. They created a campus-wide policy committee and created a new policy related to sexual misconduct and sex-based discrimination, updating online resources and training all Title IX personnel, among other measures.
Reporting has also changed under the new regulations. “Mandated reporters” (previously referred to as “responsible employees”) must immediately report all known details related to a Title IX situation to the Title IX coordinator. Mandated reporters include any employee in a supervisory role, all those in Human Resources, the Department of Public Safety, Athletics, Housing and Residential Life, and Student Affairs. Exceptions to this rule would be employees within the Center for Wellness or health professionals working within Optum Student Health Services who are deemed “confidential reporters.”
Faculty members no longer are obligated to make reports to the Title IX coordinator but must provide the name and contact information of the Title IX Coordinator to those who make a disclosure to them.
“Reports can be sent to me via email or over the phone, or by using our online reporting option,” said Devonshire. “In-person reporting might be impacted right now due to COVID-19, but I’m always available virtually. People might prefer this option as we don’t have to wear masks over Zoom, and we can talk freely without having to worry about physical distance.”
Wentworth and the Colleges of the Fenway consortium are currently exploring a partnership with UMASS Boston to potentially offer students and employees mediation and Restorative Justice opportunities among other programs. For cases which will utilize a formal resolution process, Wentworth has trained decision-makers who are charged with impartially examining evidence and rendering a decision.
“My job is to ensure a fair and neutral process,” she said.
A full report on the new changes and what they mean for Wentworth students and employees can be found online.
Further information on Title IX can be found on Wentworth’s website.