University administrators work to comply with Title IX policy

Sections of the policy relating to sexual misconduct and harassment must be revised before Aug. 14.

Illustration+by+Luis+Mendoza

Illustration by Luis Mendoza

Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota is in the process of revising portions of Title IX policy following new legislation from the U.S. Department of Education.

These new guidelines will impact how the University addresses sexual misconduct and harassment cases. Administrators and faculty are working to make changes to the University’s policy before the Aug. 14 deadline. They are also seeking input from stakeholders and groups across the University.

The Board of Regents discussed options for complying with the policy changes, including potential amendments to the standards of evidenced used in alleged sexual misconduct cases and a possible centralization to grievance procedures, at their June meeting. In a University Senate meeting held June 29, a policy draft was brought forward for consideration, as changes may impact the University’s tenure code.

The proposed policy will also be reviewed at the July 8 board meeting. An additional special meeting is expected to be scheduled in the coming weeks to finalize the changes.

“We anticipate that after that board meeting, there will need to be a vote of the Faculty Senate on changes,” said Tina Marisam, director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for the University and the Title IX coordinator. “We also anticipate that there will be a special board meeting called later in July or early August to give the regents an opportunity to vote.”

Administrators are consulting various stakeholders across the University on the proposed changes to Title IX policy. In addition to faculty and University governance, a group of students is also providing input, Marisam said.

The Aurora Center, which provides counseling and educational resources about sexual misconduct, assault and stalking, has also provided input on the changes, director Katie Eichele said. So far, these different groups have provided similar input toward the changes.

“All of those offices are dedicated to treating victim-survivors with compassion, as well as treating respondents who are accused with humanity and dignity,” Eichele said. “That is a core principle for those people who are involved in the discussion.”

After the board votes on the policy changes, they will also go through the University’s internal policy approval process. This process includes review by the Policy Advisory Committee and the President’s Policy Committee.

Although these changes have been in development since 2018, the final legislation was released by the U.S. Department of Education in May. Typically, making changes to University policy takes from anywhere from six months to a year, said Ned Patterson, incoming vice chair of the University Faculty and Senate Consultative Committees.

“Normally these decisions would be slow and deliberate,” Patterson said. “Now we’ve done it in basically two months, which is so far very rapidly.”

When the new Title IX policy is finalized by the University, changes will likely be communicated through a systemwide email, Marisam said.

There will also be a focus on communicating these changes to clients and victim-survivors through the Aurora Center, Eichele said. 

“What Aurora does is when we work one on one with a victim-survivor, that’s where a lot of our education comes from … so Aurora has to have a very intimate knowledge of what the changes are and go through the different scenarios and how they could impact the victim-survivors,” Eichele said.

The Title IX revisions will not impact the operation of the Aurora Center, Marisam said.

Looking ahead, discussions will continue across the University prior to the Aug. 14 deadline.

“We want to be as transparent as we can about what the regulations require us to do and to get as much input from as many voices as possible about what the most fair and transparent and humane way to implement these regulations will be,” Marisam said.