The new draft Title IX procedure was released on Tuesday. The University is offering a brief comment period on the draft ending on August 9.
We understand that the University is required to revise the current process to comply with the controversial new guidelines released by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education in May, and we want to recognize that the administration’s proposed procedure has made a few genuine improvements to the Title IX process. However, we are critical of the University’s handling for three key reasons. First, there has been a persistent lack of transparency and student consultation throughout this revision process. Second, we are disappointed with the administration’s continuous failure to make more enduring and impactful changes to the Title IX process, particularly at a time when the federal government has so significantly damaged it. Third, we are disheartened by the University’s decision to make harmful and unnecessary changes to the previous procedure — changes which were not mandated by Department of Education guidelines.
Lack of transparency and student consultation
The comment period offered is just six days. That means students and advocates have under a week to both read and understand the guidelines as well as write a response requesting changes and discussing concerns. This is during a time when students are likely working and attempting to finalize their plans for the fall.
We recognize that the administration is in part limiting the length of the comment period due to the fast-approaching deadline by which the new program must take effect to comply with federal regulations. However, even outside of this comment period there has been limited consultation with the student body until today’s email.
We hope that after the close of the comment period, the administration chooses to better involve the student body — through town halls, surveys and other discussions — and genuinely considers and implements student advice. We further hope that the University re-considers incorporating the recommendations made by the ASSU Advisory Panel into the final draft.
The draft procedure specifies that the arbiter of Title IX cases will be “a non-Stanford professional neutral decision-maker,” such as a retired judge. Previously, Title IX cases were heard by a panel of members of the University’s community. This shift to using professional decision-makers should address worries that Stanford affiliates may be biased against punishing a member of the Stanford community.
We also appreciate the University’s intentions in creating a new position for Title IX-specific social workers, who can guide students through the complexities of the process. This change will allow for more transparency and support for students involved.
Lost opportunities for change
Although much of this draft was altered to conform with DeVos’ new regulations, there were opportunities for the administration to take more significant steps towards a process that places justice within the reach of survivors. Many of these steps were recommended by the ASSU.
Specifically, it is disappointing that these guidelines continue to fail to provide additional details and information about the mediation process. Currently, the majority of Title IX cases are resolved through mediation, but there continues to be no clear rules governing this process. Although mediation does not need as lengthy and detailed a procedure as the entirety of the Title IX procedure, it should be more formalized and transparent.
We are most disappointed at the new restrictions placed on the pro-bono legal assistance offered to both complainants and respondents. Previously, all parties were able to access nine hours of University-funded legal services; now, that time is capped at two hours unless an allegation proceeds to a hearing. Due to the fact that so few cases ultimately result in a hearing, this significantly decreases accessible legal assistance for those undergoing the Title IX process.
A Title IX process is an inherently quasi-legal undertaking, and reducing legal support via pro-bono services only hurts low-income and vulnerable students. Individuals with the economic means often hire counsel near the beginning of the process, leaving those without the financial means to rely solely on university support. All respondents and complainants, regardless of their socio-economic background, deserve similar access to counsel throughout a Title IX hearing.
The proposed pilot program also suggests a new timeline for Title IX cases, noting that “the University will seek to complete a Hearing within 120 calendar days from the filing of a Formal Complaint.” This proposed 120-day guideline is a stark departure from the timeline of 60 days set by previous Title IX policy and allows for a protracted process. This timeline would place an undue burden on survivors, requiring them to deal with the emotional and mental toll of Title IX proceedings for an extended period of time.
This being said, it is clear that the majority of the blame for the lack of fairness in this new process falls on DeVos. Her callous treatment of survivors is a reflection on the current Trump administration’s dangerous disregard for the severity of sexual violence on college campuses.
Furthermore, we recognize that very few complainants and respondents go through the Title IX process, a reflection on both the fact that there are other options available and the reality that the Title IX process remains daunting. However, this process is a symbol of the University’s overarching support for survivors, or lack thereof. Whether administrators listen to us, the students, is symbolic of whose concerns they are valuing. This process governs our ability to seek and receive some form of justice. It is only right that it takes into account our thoughts, perspectives and experiences.
The summer Editorial Board consists of Claire Dinshaw ’21, Layo Laniyan ’22, Elizabeth Lindqwister ’21, Adrian Liu ’20, Patrick Monreal ’22, Megha Parwani ’21 and Cooper Ryan Veit ’22.
Contact the Editorial Board at opinions ‘at’ stanford.edu.
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