In a split vote of 10-3, the Nevada System of Higher Education voted to comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations regarding sexual harassment under Title IX.
According to Director of Title IX and ADA Maria Doucettperry, the major changes of the regulations are the jurisdiction of Title IX policy and what behavior actually qualifies as sexual harassment.
“There was other jurisdictional concerns that students have raised and we put those in our comments to the proposed rules. Those things remain in place, and so the jurisdictional limitations will be implemented,” Doucettperry said in an interview with the Nevada Sagebrush.
According to Doucettperry, this means incidents cannot be handled through the Title IX office unless they are on campus, during a program or activity of the institution, or at an event run by an organization recognized by the University of Nevada, Reno.
Doucettperry also recognized another significant change in the policy as the change to the definition of sexual harassment. Prior to the change, sexual harassment in a hostile environment was classified as “severe, persistent or pervasive conduct.” In accordance with the new regulations, sexual harassment in a hostile environment is classified as “severe, persistent and objectively pervasive,” according to Doucettperry, and all elements must be met.
Additionally, the new policy changes will require live hearings. These will require cross examination by an advisor.
The new policy also changes the reporting methods. Prior to the change, all university employees—which included resident advisors, coaches and student employees were required to report an incident of sexual assault they have knowledge of. The new changes will only require Title IX officers to file reports if they have knowledge of an incident.
All of the amendments to the new policy became effective on Friday, Aug. 14, but Doucettperry says active cases will follow the policy and definitions of sexual harassment in place of the time of the report, however, policies may change to the most current national policies.
Attorney General Aaron Ford called in for public comment and said his office signed into a multi-state comment letter opposing DOE rules changes on Title IX in January 2019. Ford said his office did not receive a response from NSHE before the suits deadline. Ford also said the option to join a lawsuit or file a lawsuit regarding Title IX changes remains open.
“The fight to protect victims of sexual violence doesn’t end,” said Lisa Levine, a Board of Regents member who voted no to the changes on Twitter. “Our work continues. I encourage all of the students & faculty who made their voices heard to keep the [drumbeat] going, call the board members who voted against you and tell them: NSHE needs to join litigation.”
The Associated Student of the University of Nevada Dom Hall also publicly criticized NSHE approval of the changes.
“Not every student is going to want to speak up about how sexual assault affected them educationally,” Dom Hall said on Twitter. “We should be joining the lawsuits with other states and we should be protecting students right now. I think it’s really important for us to know what students are going through right now and what they can go through with harmful decisions.”
Deputy General Counsel for System Administration Zelalem Bogale and the University of Nevada Reno’s Title IX Director Maria Doucettperry presented at the Board of Regents for approval to the revisions to NSHE’s policy. They presented for approval temporary emergency amendments to the NSHE Code pertaining to confidentiality of records associated with a Title IX complaint or investigation and conforming revisions, which pertain to the student code of conduct.
Taylor Johnson and Olivia Ali can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org