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University of California officials discuss effects of proposed Title IX changes

UC Systemwide Title IX Coordinator Suzanne Taylor and UCLA Title IX Director Mohammed Cato discussed the future of Title IX in universities in the face of potential federal changes Thursday. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Shelby Dunagan

April 19, 2019 12:07 am

University of California Title IX officials assessed proposed federal changes to Title IX policy and the future of Title IX at the UC as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month Thursday.

The United States Department of Education proposed changes to current Title IX rules in November that would guide how schools handle reports of sexual harassment.

Under the proposed changes, the UC would have to comply with new federal regulations such as switching from a single investigative model to a live hearing model in investigations and allowing for the advisor of the accused to cross-examine the accuser.

Suzanne Taylor, UC systemwide Title IX coordinator, and Mohammed Cato, UCLA Title IX director, said at a Campus Assault Resources and Education event their highest priority is ensuring that their policies are fair for everyone involved.

Cases in non-UC affiliated activities and programs, and cases outside of the U.S., would also no longer be under the jurisdiction of UCLA’s Title IX office, Cato said.

Cato also addressed the proposal to change the definition of sexual harassment to “unwanted conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a recipient’s education program or activity.”

This is a stricter definition that excludes many incidents of sexual harassment that would be included under the old definition, he said.

Amy Weitz, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, said the UC is troubled by the proposed Title IX rules and is aware that proposed changes would reverse critical protections for individuals who have experienced sexual violence.

“We will not adopt any feature of the Title IX rules that we believe would be harmful to our students or the broader UC community unless and until that is absolutely legally required,” Weitz said. “Our highest priority is ensuring that our policies are fair and just, so that individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct will not fear coming forward, and so that all parties know that their rights are protected.”

Weitz added there is currently no new federal Title IX ruling in place, as the changes have only been proposed thus far. However, when new policies are issued, the UC Title IX office will have to critically assess the best way to comply.

“The (UC) has agreed to comply with Title IX as a condition to receiving federal funds,” Weitz said. “Therefore, when the proposed rules are eventually issued, we must thoughtfully assess the best way to respond, keeping the well-being of our university community paramount.”

Atreyi Mitra, a marketing coordinator for the Bruin Consent Coalition and a second-year human biology and society student, said she believes the recent proposed changes by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will harm students who have experienced sexual violence and will serve to protect the accused more than the survivor.

“I know about the trauma, self-blame and invalidation survivors experience, reasons why so many never end up going to CARE or Title IX,” Mitra said. “These proposed Title IX policy changes do absolutely nothing to mitigate the sexual violence epidemic on college campuses and will only increase underreporting.”

Mitra added she approves of the UC’s condemnation of the proposed policy changes but worries about forced compliance. She said she hopes students will continue to seek out support despite the controversy surrounding possible changes.

“There continues to be a lot of ambiguity surrounding how these policies will manifest in the UC,” Mitra said. “But just remember that the UC and the Title IX offices are trying their absolute best to reject as much of the proposed policies they legally can as well as performing everything in the most trauma-informed and survivor-centered manner.”

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Shelby Dunagan
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