By Yusra Arub
Provost Persis Drell announced on Wednesday that Stanford’s public comment on the proposed federal changes to the Title IX process was submitted in conjunction with the Association for American Universities (AAU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) — both of which Stanford is a member — rather than as an individual comment.
“As an institution, we have felt that our input would have the most impact when pooled with that of other universities,” Drell wrote. “To that end, we have worked closely with two national associations to which we belong … We have participated actively in providing input to each.”
The comment period for the U.S. Department of Education, through which the changes would be enacted, ended on Wednesday at midnight EST. If approved, the proposed changes would relieve universities of the responsibility of dealing with incidents that occur outside their campuses and narrow the scope of how sexual harassment is defined.
The AAU comment details the draft Title IX changes as well as suggested amendments for the Department to consider. Suggestions include removing the requirements for institutions to permit cross-examination, apply the same standard of evidence across all disciplinary processes or appoint aligned advisors.
In their letter, AAU stated that acting on the comments submitted by universities “would respect the autonomy and educational missions of America’s higher education institutions, while allowing them to tailor their sexual harassment proceedings to effectively protect the rights of all students, faculty and staff members.”
The ACE letter identifies potential changes in the Title IX draft to better support victims of assault and gender-based discrimination in educational institutions. Several provisions were listed in the letter to emphasize ways in which colleges could more effectively address cases of sexual harassment.
ACE also lists the proposed changes it feels would undermine institutions’ efforts to prevent sexual harassment, including cross-examination measures, the right to inspect “any evidence … directly related” to allegations and a change to the standard of proof.
Drell added that though the comments contain “an amalgamation of many views,” Stanford feels they “appropriately highlight the most significant issues in the proposed regulations.”
Drell’s announcement follows the release of Stanford’s Office of Institutional Equity’s analysis of Title IX proposed regulations, shared by the ASSU. The analysis revealed that the proposed regulations may narrow the scope of the allegations Stanford can investigate under Title IX, modify the University’s hearing procedures and make the University review its burden of proof, among other changes.
“Our focus has been on how the regulations would affect our support for students — both complainants and respondents in Title IX cases — and ensure a fair and effective Title IX process,” Drell wrote.
Drell emphasized that no changes will be made to the Title IX process unless a federal ruling on the proposed changes takes effect, which Drell notes could take “many months.”
Public comments were also submitted by students, including one co-authored on behalf of the Associated Students of Stanford University by President Shanta Katipamula ’19 and Co-director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Ph.D. candidate Emma Tsurkov. The Graduate Student Council also endorsed the comment.
Sexual Violence Prevention board members Maia Brockbank ’21, Krithika Iyer ’21 and Julia Paris ’21 joined Katipamula and Turskov in circulating a petition for support for their own comment, which proposed changes to several Title IX provisions that they found “incompatible with their stated purpose and with Title IX’s goal to eliminate gender discrimination in access to education.”
While the future of Stanford’s Title IX proceedings now lie in the hands of the Department of Education, Drell affirmed Stanford’s commitment to maintaining a safe campus.
“We will continue working to foster policies and programs that provide for a safe campus community, along with fair processes in which everyone can have confidence and trust,” Drell wrote.
Contact Yusra Arub at yusraarub19 ‘at’ mittymonarch.com.