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Title IX Office - Policy Update - August 17, 2020

Dear members of the Swarthmore community,

First, I hope you all are well, safe, and supported. I am writing to follow-up on a letter that I sent to our community in May acknowledging the release of the new Title IX regulations by the Department of Education. In that note, I referenced that we would be working diligently to review and update our policy and procedures to address federal compliance and community values by the regulations’ effective date of August 14, 2020.

Two months during the summer when students and faculty are traditionally away from campus, not to mention during a global pandemic, is not the ideal time to solicit as much real-time community feedback as we would have liked. Despite these less-than-ideal circumstances, I want to publicly thank the 14 students who served on the Title IX Student Feedback Working Group and the staff members on the Title IX Team who spent countless hours poring over the nuances of these changes. The policy and procedures are better because of their time, care, and thoughtful critique.  

The new policy and procedures are now live and accessible on the website of the Title IX Office. I want to highlight some of the most significant changes you will see in these 2020-2021 versions.

  • The most significant global change that we made has to do with the organization of the policy and procedures. The new federal regulations have narrowed the type of conduct that falls within the purview of Title IX. Colleges are only required by the regulations to meet the specific procedural requirements, such as live cross-examination, for conduct covered under Title IX. Specifically, the regulations no longer cover conduct that occurred off campus, outside of the College’s programs or activities, outside of the United States, or filed by a complainant that is not an active member of the Swarthmore student/faculty/staff community. Because we believe it is important to continue addressing the full scope of sexual misconduct as we always have, we created two procedures — one that identifies the process for addressing Title IX-covered behavior (and the specific statutory requirements), and the other that identifies the process for addressing College-defined sexual misconduct which provides for a process more aligned with our previous procedures.  

  • One critique of the Title IX process at Swarthmore has been the overall length of the formal complaint process. Because of this, we have worked to streamline the post-investigation steps and associated timeline to expedite the process. However, the new federal regulations now require a 20-day review period post-investigation, which will likely lengthen the time of this process once again. (Note: we have not provided the same 20-day review period for the College-defined sexual misconduct process.)  We also noted the ability to conduct remote adjudications, particularly considering our current situation of a largely remote semester.

  • The new regulations have replaced the concept of “responsible employees” with the narrower category of “official with authority.” We have decided to retain the use of the term “responsible employees” and maintain the obligation for faculty and most staff to report to the Title IX Office when they have received a disclosure of sexual misconduct.  

    • We have clarified which student employees have reporting obligations under this policy. Resident Advisors, Student Academic Mentors, and SWATeam members will be trained on their role as responsible employees.

  • The new regulations allow for expanded use of informal resolutions for Title IX complaints. We included the use of transformative and restorative practices as possible forms of adaptable remedies and informal resolutions within the procedures.

  • For the faculty and staff Title IX procedures, in order to comply with the new federal regulations we need to provide for a hearing to allow for questioning in real time of the parties and witnesses. Since we did not have the time to afford a comprehensive review of these changes with faculty and staff, the changes we made to these interim procedures are focused solely on compliance with the new regulations and filling some identified gaps where the procedures had been silent. We anticipate engaging in a collaborative process in the coming semester with faculty and staff to ensure their voices and concerns are addressed in the final version of the procedures.  

If there are any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at Be well.