At issue: Proposed Changes to Title IX regulations
Our take: Talk won’t combat new Title IX policies
Last week, we published a Beacon Breakdown on the Title IX changes proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. These amendments would alter how colleges handle sexual misconduct cases and complaints. The new rules could replace the Obama administration’s call for stricter enforcement of the 1972 law, which mandated gender equity among institutions that accept federal money, such as Emerson.
Under these new changes, schools would only be required to respond to accusations if an official report or multiple reports about the same person were made. Earlier Title IX regulations instructed colleges to use the lowest standard of proof when investigating sexual misconduct. These changes would call for a higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” according to The Washington Post.
According to an article in The New York Times, the regulations would narrow the scope of complaints schools are obligated to investigate. Schools would no longer be required to investigate misconduct claims that occur off campus or outside of school-sponsored programs. And the accused would have the right to cross-examine their accuser.
In May 2014, the Department of Education named Emerson College as one of the 55 colleges under investigation due to possible violations of Title IX policies and how the college handles sexual violence and harassment complaints.
As the primary source of on-campus news, the Beacon holds a responsibility to inform its audience—Emerson students, staff, and faculty—on local and national controversies affecting them. Under the proposed changes, students accused of sexual misconduct would gain greater protections, and colleges investigating complaints could face reduced accountability, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Beacon published an editorial immediately after the college’s lead Title IX investigator, Pamela Ring, resigned last January. We discussed how a new investigator could potentially bring about a more accessible Title IX Office.
Last September, we started to update the Emerson community on the office’s job search every month. Despite our efforts to actively publish updates during the search process, nothing has been done by the school to make a change. After a year-long search, the Title IX Office is still without a lead investigator.
Our campus culture suffers as repeat abusers and known offenders of Title IX carry on without consequence. Student engagement and leadership policies make ousting students in organizations on campus almost impossible. As a result of these policies, it has become more difficult to hold these individuals accountable for sexual misconduct.
On Jan. 16, President M. Lee Pelton joined Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other Boston college and university presidents at a public announcement directed at the Department of Education. The group challenged the proposed changes and their adverse effects on the accuser. WGBH also interviewed Pelton alongside Berklee College of Music President Roger Brown. Berklee announced in Nov. 2017 they had terminated 11 professors in 13 years for sexual assault and harassment.
In these public appearances, Pelton voiced strong opposition to the changes that could complicate the Title IX process. Though Pelton’s public dissent aids the college’s image, it does not make up for the lack of action on campus.
Though we value the administration’s public advocacy against these new Title IX regulations, it is vital this vocal support translates into concrete change. We ask for more transparency from the Title IX Office and hope they will be willing to communicate their progress and goals with the Beacon and the rest of the Emerson community. We understand the need for confidentiality, but keeping our student platform largely in the dark contradicts the message of support the college advertises to the public.