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Concerns of Recent Title IX Provisions Loom Over Students and Faculty

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Ole Miss Title IX Coordinator Honey Ussery spoke to students and faculty regarding the Title IX changes Thursday night in Bryant Hall. Photo by Talbert Toole.

The Rebels Against Sexual Assault (RASA) hosted an open forum Thursday night in Bryant Hall to discuss the provisions to Title IX made by the Department of Education under the Trump Administration. The forum discussed ways the amendments will affect how the University of Mississippi’s Title IX office conducts sexual harassment claims.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to the proposal from the DOE, current regulations and guidance of Title IX—which was introduced into legislation under the Obama Administration in 2011—does not provide appropriate standards for how victims respond to incidents of sexual harassment.

Due to the Department’s concern for regulations and guidance, it has amended to change three key factors, among many more, when it comes to sexual harassment on college campuses. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos announced the provisions to the current Title IX guidelines late last fall.

The three major alterations to the current Title IX will be Section 106.44 (c) (1) (ii), the definition of sexual harassment; Section 106.45 (b) (3), jurisdiction regarding off campus sexual harassment; and Section 106.45 (b) (3) (vii), cross-examination between the victim and the accused, who is also known as the respondent.

The biggest concern form those attending the forum Thursday night was jurisdiction regarding off campus sexual harassment. As it stands of now, alleged sexual harassment between a victim and respondent, who are both university students, goes through the Title IX process regardless of the location, according to Ole Miss Title IX Coordinator Honey Ussery. The new provision would only allow the Title IX process if the off campus sexual harassment is adjacent to any university location. 

Ussery said that 50 percent of off campus sexual harassment claims currently go through the Ole Miss Title IX office. If the provisions are implemented, off campus claims would be directed to different offices on the campus such as the counseling center and violence prevention office; however, Ussery said the university, including the Title IX office and Provost Noel Wilkin, are still in discussion on how to handle these claims once the provisions are implemented on the national and federal levels, which will then be implemented on the collegiate level.

“We will find the resources our students need,” Ussery said.

One student questioned if these provisions are implemented and cases are directed to other offices, would funding and resources increase in those offices for students?

Quinton Edwards, director of the counseling center, said although funds and resources are always up in the air, the office can seek for additional assistance for temporary employees if needed and the university almost always grants them approval.

Edwards said the 40 percent of students who use counseling sessions typically only use four or fewer sessions. The center would then go case-by-case if a student needed additional sessions.

The RASA meeting also served as an introduction into the comment section on the website regulation.gov. The section allows those who have opinions or concerns regarding the provisions an opportunity to voice his or her opinions. Those looking to comment have until Jan. 30.

When submitting a comment, the user must a follow a three-step process in his or her paragraph, according to the website handsoffix.org.

Photo via handsoffix.org.

Although the RASA meeting covered three major changes to Title IX, the proposed provisions cover a vast array of changes. The document Devos submitted to be implemented is 149 pages. Handsoffix.org provides those who are interested in learning more about the provisions a nine point break down of the new Title IX regulations.

According to Ussery, the new provisions could be implemented within six months to a year.

For more information on Title IX, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

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