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Md. university leaders see few positives in new federal Title IX guidance

The Daily Record

February 1, 2019

 

Some of Maryland’s top higher education leaders told a state Senate panel Thursday that they do not see a lot of positives in the federal Department of Education’s proposed regulations on handling sexual assault and misconduct allegations under Title IX.

Last fall the Department of Education proposed Title IX regulations that could force universities to alter sexual misconduct policies that previously had been revamped under the Obama administration. More than 96,000 comments were submitted by Wednesday’s deadline to respond to the proposals.

“In general I would say we have some concerns, but we are hoping that through the regulatory process, they will be ironed out, they will be coordinated with what we are able to do with the state, and we will be able to go forward with something that makes sense,” University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret told the Senate’s Education, Business and Administration Subcommittee of the Budget and Taxation Committee. “But there are some challenges right now.”

Last November, the Department of Education overhauled guidance for sexual assault cases on campus issued under the Obama administration. The new rules could allow for more cross-examinations of victims and a higher standard of evidence in these cases.

The rules also allow schools to limit the number of mandatory reporters — personnel who have to report an incident to the Title IX office — and limit a reportable offense to one that happens on university property or at a university event.

Taken altogether, the proposals appear to meet Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ goal of providing more rights to the accused in Title IX cases.

But schools have been working to overhaul their sexual misconduct and sexual assault properties in response to the Obama-era guidance and to a growing discussion around these issues on campus and in the workplace.

At the top of education officials’ concerns is the cross-examination requirement. They fear it could turn Title IX hearings and investigations into something approximating a court procedure.

“I think the general consensus is that universities are just not set up to be tribunals,” David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, told the panel. “And we don’t know what that would look like in terms of trying to turn universities into courtrooms. And so we are very very leery about that, and I think at the end of the day what you are hearing from all of us is pretty much the same thing.”

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