New Title IX regulation changes discussed in virtual town hall


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New Title IX changes were discussed during a virtual town hall held Tuesday morning. 

New Title IX regulation changes were discussed during a virtual town hall held Tuesday morning.

Rija Khan, student body president, and Aleks Sternfield-Dunn, faculty senate president, moderated a discussion with the Title IX coordinator Sarah Zafar. 

Sternfield-Dunn opened the discussion by asking Zafar for a general explanation of what the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance can do for students.

“We are the ones who receive all reports of discrimination and harassment,” Zafar said.  “Title IX receives discrimination and harassment based on sex and gender and that includes sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual exploitation.”

The office also handles accommodations for pregnant and parenting students and gender equity. 

When the Title IX office receives a report, they address it by first reaching out to the person who needs assistance. Usually, this will result in a meeting where they can go over options and provide them with resources but students have the option to decline.

According to Zafar, the changes to Title IX policy have been anticipated for years.

“In May of this year, May 6, the Department of Education released new, long awaited, Title IX regulations,” Zafar said. “They proposed these regulations back in November of 2018 and they opened it up for public comment then got upwards of 120,000 public comments.”

Zafar and her team addressed the new regulations by rewriting and combining the policies for students, staff, and visitors into one, further defining the role of advisors, and changing the language of many of the policies. 

Zafar also explained the new formal grievance process.  The new process adds required live hearing.

“The live hearing is going to be conducted by outside hearing officers,” Zafar said. “The hearing officers are going to be from outside the university and they are going to be completely impartial to anything related to the university and so they would hear all the evidence and there would be some cross-examination by advisors.” 

Those hearing officers determine if a policy was violated.

Zafar also emphasized that there is an alternative to having a live hearing.

“There is the option for what we call informal resolutions and an informal resolution can happen anytime between the notice of investigation and allegation, the actual formal complaint, all the way up until the day of the hearing,” Zafar said. “And that can look like mediation, that can look like a facilitated discussion, that can be a written agreement, both sides have to agree to it and both sides have to be on board for it to happen but there are a number of situations in which people may not want to go through the hearing process.”

For anyone undergoing a hearing, the Title IX office has trained a number of staff members to be advisors for them and speak during the hearing. They are also in the process of contracting more advisors. 

Students can also have the support of the campus victim advocate, Meredith Osborne with Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC).

Additionally, Zafar discussed privacy vs. confidentiality, policies for mandatory reporters, training for anyone to become an advisor, and more details on what the Title IX case process looks like.

Zafar encourages anyone interested in learning more about policy changes or submitting a report to read the Title IX section of the online WSU Policies and Procedures Manual or email her at [email protected]