Otterbein officials say that announcement to revoke Title IX policies implemented under the Obama administration by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will not change Otterbein's policies on sexual assault.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion.
In early September, DeVos said she wants to create guidelines that are fair to the accused, but also continue to protect sexual assault victims.
These changes with Title IX will have no effect on Otterbein, according to Associate Dean of Students Julie Saker and Director of Human Resources and Legal Affairs Scott Fitzgerald.
Otterbein's sexual misconduct policy is the same as the beginning of the year and doesn't plan on changing even after DeVos' announcement, according to Saker.
“When we hear about things we look into it, we provide support to students, we have a process that is fair for both parties," said Saker. "we had the Student Conduct Hearing board, then called the Judicial Counsel who heard the cases and they were trained in sexual violence.”
The Office for Civil Rights wrote a Dear Colleague Letter in 2011 in response to the rates of sexual violence on college campuses. The 2011 letter set guidelines where schools receiving federal funding must comply with Title IX. DeVos recently rescinded this letter.
The previous guidelines lowered the standard of proof in sexual assault cases and allowed the accused to appeal not-guilty findings. The 2011 Letter also dictated that colleges use a preponderance of evidence in resolving campus sexual assault cases, which is a lower standard that what is used in criminal cases.
The US Department of Civil rights wrote a Dear Colleague letter and a Q&A on sexual misconduct on September 22, 2017 to inform the public which policies will be changed by the Department of Education. These documents are in response to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence.
According to the 2017 Dear Colleague Letter, legal commentators have questioned the 2011 letter and the 2014 Questions and answers for putting unfair pressure on universities to adopt policies that don't implement fundamental fairness.
Supporters of Devos' actions said there has been a new class of victims from the strict policies in the law. The victims being innocent students who are accused of sexual crimes, denied fair hearings and wrongly punished with suspension of expulsion according to CBS.
“We will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system,” said DeVos during a speech at George Mason University.
Under the 2017 letter, colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate. The 2011 letter stated that mediation wasn't appropriate even if all parties agreed to participate.
“Our program emphasizes prevention and response strategies,” said Fitzgerald in an email to the Otterbein community. “We have implemented a program that is prompt, effective and fair to all persons involved in the process. Each summer we review our policy to ensure our procedures are fair and equitable.”
Saker mentioned that organizations like The Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) visits Otterbein and comments on policies and practices that can be improved. SARNCO will be paying for four Otterbein faculty members to be trained by the Green Dot program. The Green Dot program teaches people how to handle sexual assault cases and how to help the survivors.
You can read Otterbein’s Title IX policy here.