Senate Beat: Nov 30, 2020

Administration looks to students for guidance on Title IX policy

Senate’s public meeting began with Senator Aziz Ouedraogo commenting on how for the 19 years of her life she spent cosplaying as a boy, she had never had as much luck on gay Tinder as she is having now as a girl on straight Tinder. The meeting then moved into committee reports, and ended with a presentation and discussion on changes to Title IX policy with Reed’s 504 Coordinator Chris Toutain and Intern Dean of Students Cindy Anderson.

Toutain stated that in the wake of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s new Title IX regulations, Reed has been changing their Title IX policy to remain compliant and to continue to receive federal funding. The school is required by Oregon law to reach out to Student Senate for input before changing Title IX policy, but due to the emergency caused by COVID-19, President Audrey Bilger decided to make Reed compliant without seeking Senate input to streamline the process, with the promise to reach out to Senate to see possible changes to Reed’s Title IX policy. Toutain reminded Senate that soon the country will get a new education secretary who could change the Title IX requirements yet again. Later in the meeting, Anderson added that, because DeVos’s changes went through legislative channels, changes to actual policy may not happen for years, but guidance on compliance may change continuously in the meantime, which could mean that Reed and similar institutions would be constantly changing their Title IX policies as new guidance rolled out. The Title IX process was characterized not as a single change but as the beginning of a few years of constant revision and flux in the Title IX policy, and the student listening sessions on policy happening now should not be seen as single events but as the first of many in the constant revision process.

Senator Charlotte Thompson added that the upcoming listening sessions are especially important because many of the changes required by the DeVos laws are not supportive towards survivors. Listening sessions with survivors of sexual harassment and violence are necessary to find ways to best serve them while remaining compliant and receiving the federal funding necessary to make Reed even remotely accessible to low-SES students. Toutain added that there is an online form that the Title IX policy working group is promoting in case people are unable to attend the listening sessions. A link to this form was sent out in SB Info.

Toutain went on to explain the overlapping mandates of Oregon’s Discriminatory Harassment and Sexual Misconduct (DHSM) policy and federal Title IX policy. Oregon’s DHSM policy describes many types of prohibited behavior and recommendations and regulations for how to address such behavior. Federal Title IX policy adds certain regulations to a small subset of those prohibited behaviors. The new Title IX policies provide a narrower definition for what sorts of behavior they prohibit. It is still not clear in some respects how Title IX policy will interact with the DHSM policy, and figuring out those interactions will be a large part of the revision process for many private colleges in Oregon.

One of the changes to Title IX procedures is that formal complaints do not necessarily lead to investigative and punitive measures. Formal complaints must be dismissed if they do not have the possibility of being the prohibited behavior as outlined by Title IX. Support and reporting can happen separately from the formal complaint and investigation. The new Title IX regulations allow for informal resolution options should the formal channels be deemed inappropriate.

The largest change is the new procedure for when a formal complaint is deemed valid. Both the complainant and the respondent receive written notice of the allegations and that the investigation is underway. The college cannot comply or coerce cooperation with the investigation. The investigation usually consists of gathering tangible information and interviews with the involved parties. Then an official hearing officer can hear pretrial hearings which must allow for cross examination of complainant and respondent either directly or indirectly through advisors, two of which may be chosen by the parties and brought to any meetings. At Reed, the cross examinations and hearings will be done virtually, so the complainant and respondent will never be in the same room. The hearing officer then determines whether there was a policy violation. That decision then comes back to Reed administration to determine sanctions. Reed has made engagements with the California based firm Grand River Solutions to provide professional hearing officers.

Toutain then went on to speak about annotated copies of the new regulations that were made available through SB Info that attempt to provide some information on how Reed has decided to implement the regulations. Anderson then announced that there will be listening sessions that will be held during Paideia week, the specifics of which will be communicated via emails sent to the student body. Student Dylan Wong asked if there could be a student present on the Title IX advisory committee in some permanent fashion, and Anderson stated that the working group is enthusiastically open to having a student position. Anderson spoke to the importance of having continued input on Reed’s compliance with federal regulations and guidance as “the tea leaves say there’s nothing but change on the horizon for Title IX.”

Student Body Senate President Al Chen began committee reports by stating that they had a good break and had nothing to report. Ouedraogo began her committee reports by formally recommending Kiana Cunningham-Rodriguez to the position of Assistant Treasurer. There weren’t enough senators present to reach quorum, so Chen stated that the vote will be held over Senate’s Slack. Congratulations Kiana! Ouedraogo also announced that there are open spots for new J Board members, as well as secretary positions for various Senate committees. Campus Safety Advisory Board will also have three students appointed. The application is not yet posted, but Ouedraogo said that the Campus Safety Advisory Board, as well as the Commencement Committee and Computing Committee applications, will hopefully be posted before the end of the semester. Next, Student Body Senate Vice President Apoorva Mangipudi announced that the Student Committee on Diversity met to revise proposals for the new HUM 110 program to include budget information. The pilot program will be happening in the next semester, which will hopefully include training during Paideia week and put student mediators in classrooms by the time of the first HUM 110 conferences. Thompson announced that Student Opportunity Subsidy is currently non-functional because of failure to comply with tax laws. They are not currently allowed to disburse money or do direct purchases and are trying to find a temporary solution by working with other departments. Senator Priya Narain met with Legislation Committee to discuss clutter and posters in Elliot Hall and met with the Center for Life Beyond Reed to discuss opportunities for students of color. Secretary Safi Zenger announced that she is still Secretary, so has no committee reports. Chen reminded everyone that Safi will be a Senator next semester, and this was met with much rejoicing.

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