Update: Oct. 19, 6:45 p.m.: LMU has an established 120-day period to address formal complaints of sexual harassment under Title IX. Both parties will be informed if there is a good reason for any delay in addressing the case, according to Trivedi. To clarify the conditions that a reported case may fall under the University’s Title IX policy, the incident must have occurred within an LMU-controlled area or LMU campus in the United States.
To mitigate further trauma during the investigation of a misconduct case, LMU conducts hearings with the cross examination process virtually and with each party in a separate room so that there is no direct contact. This procedure applies to both LMU’s Student Title IX Policy and the Student on Student Sexual or Interpersonal Misconduct Policy and Protocol, according to Trivedi.
For Title IX cases, cross examination is conducted by advisors of the complainant and respondent’s choosing. An advisor may be appointed by the University to serve on a student’s behalf if the student does not have an advisor.
The Department of Education has made changes to Title IX, expanding required resources and protections for survivors of sexual harassment. The "Rule” was announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos on May 6, but took full effect on Aug. 14.
LMU has been working since the announcement in May to adjust its Title IX policies and procedures in accordance with the Department of Education’s official changes. Most requirements, however, have already been in place at the University, according to Sara Trivedi, LMU’s Title IX coordinator.
Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The new Title IX regulations redefine the definition of sexual harassment so that it now includes sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or “conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to an LMU educational program or activity,” according to Trivedi.
The Rule also ensures basic due process protections and fairness for students who have experienced sexual harassment. Previous regulation lacked these protections and often led to the overturning of school decisions on sexual harassment cases and courts essentially “subjecting survivors to further trauma.”
“No student should be made to feel alone or abandoned by their school. No incident should ever be swept under the rug,” said DeVos in her announcement of the Rule. “Students who are subjected to sexual misconduct deserve deliberate and decisive action that carries the force of law.”
New protocols have been applied to the investigation and judicial review of misconduct cases under Title IX, including the availability of support measures, information provided to both parties involved and “the requirement that both parties have advisors who will conduct cross-examination” in the event of a judicial hearing, according to Trivedi. Throughout the proceedings, schools must offer both parties equal rights of appeal and support.
Despite the widespread input from survivors, individuals wrongly accused of sexual misconduct, school administrators and the general public when drafting the Rule, some are disappointed in the new amendments. Critics claim that that several of the implemented requirements will in fact make it easier for schools to push aside cases of sexual harassment, thereby discouraging survivors from seeking help. These questionable measures include the removal of the 60-day time limit for schools to start an investigation on sexual harassment reports, the dismissal of any reports which occurred on areas not controlled by the school and the process of cross-examination.
Cross-examination, which many are considering the most impactful of the new regulations, has already been a policy in practice at LMU since spring 2019, according to Trivedi.
This process can be harmful or lead to further trauma, as survivors may be cross-examined by friends or family of the perpetrator or other potential witnesses of the event, according to Know Your Title IX. The Loyolan has reached out to Trivedi about her perspective on the issue.
The two primary changes that the LMU has made in response to the Department of Education’s new requirements have been the new Student Title IX Policy and the Faculty and Staff Title IX Policy. The Student Title IX Policy outlines how one may report a misconduct by a student and the conduct process moving forward from the complaint in accordance with the official Title IX changes. The Faculty and Staff Title IX Policy outlines the same for a report of misconduct by a faculty or staff member.
“LMU’s conduct processes have been designed to be fair and impartial to protect all parties’ interests,” said Trivedi. “That will not change – regardless of which policy is used to respond to a report of sexual or interpersonal misconduct or sexual harassment.”
Trivedi explained that for a misconduct report to fall under Title IX requirements, the event must have happened on campus or at an LMU controlled location. Any other instances will be approached with Student Conduct Code’s Student-on-Student Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy and Protocol.
LMU aims to prevent cases of sexual and interpersonal misconduct through its LMU CARES (Campus Awareness Resource Education Services) program. Other programs that have been effective in providing support for students regarding cases of misconduct are the SARA (Student Affairs Resource Administrators) and CRA (Community Resource Advisors), according to Trivedi.
SARAs are members of the student affairs team trained to help students navigate and understand LMU’s investigation and conduct process. CRAs are faculty and staff members with whom students may confide in with regard to instances of misconduct without an immediate investigation into the event.