On Wednesday, the public comment period for the Department of Education's proposed rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance, pertaining to Title IX closed with over 100,000 comments received. On behalf of our members, NASPA submitted comments on the proposed rule.
NASPA's members, student affairs professionals and the institutions that employ them, recognize the importance of addressing sexual harassment accusations to ensure supportive and productive educational environments for all students. Essential to ensuring such environments are campus adjudication procedures that uphold student civil rights while allowing for sensitivity to the level of ambiguity inherent in sexual harassment and assault incidents. NASPA values the important role of the Department in the issuance of guidance and providing oversight for how higher education institutions develop fair and equitable sexual harassment policies and processes. However, our comments on the proposed rule express our concern that the net effect of the proposed guidelines would impose a heavily legalistic and intricate process on institutions for investigating incidents of possible sexual harassment.
Overall, NASPA finds that the Department’s proposed Title IX of the Educational Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title IX) rule would, if implemented as proposed, create a more adversarial process for adjudication of campus sexual harassment conduct incidents. NASPA objects most strongly to the many and various ways in which the proposed rule conflates campus sexual harassment adjudication with criminal justice proceedings. We strongly request for this approach to be reconsidered. Barring the removal of such references, our comments identify several areas of the proposed rule that would require additional clarification or revision to maintain the environments of trust and responsibility institutions have worked diligently to create in recent years. Such trust is necessary to ensure that those subject to sexual harassment feel that coming forward to report an incident will be taken seriously and adjudicated fairly as well as to ensure those named in an accusation can be confident their rights will be respected. Our full comments address our major concerns.
In addition to submitting our own comments, NASPA also joined community comments submitted by over 60 higher education associations under the leadership of the American Council on Education as well as comments prepared on behalf of several student affairs affiliated associations.