By Jane Fitzpatrick, Assistant News Editor
Colleges across the country received new guidelines from the United States Department of Education surrounding Title IX and the regulated responses to sexual assault reported on college campuses. New adjustments to regulations will have to be implemented this year.
Some of the most prominent changes established by the U.S. Department of Education affect the hearing processes which take place at the end of a formal grievance process under the jurisdiction of Title IX. Previously, both parties were entitled to the guidance of an advisor. Under the new regulations, advisors are permitted to cross-examine the opposing party during the hearing, but questions used to cross-examine must be approved by a hearing panel chair.
Title IX Director, Amanda Blaugher, recently reflected on how the changes will affect the Gettysburg College campus and how the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX can remain a helpful resource for students under the new regulations.
“We have always offered the ability for cross examination indirectly,” commented Blaugher. She went on to recognize worries and fears that students may have in regards to the new regulations: “We understand that this new way of handling Title IX grievances is going to be a big change; however, we’re figuring out ways to combat common concerns.”
One way in which the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX is addressing these concerns is by going “above and beyond” the implemented guidelines. The Department of Education has provided guidelines and regulations that act as a minimum standard for college institutions. This means that the Office of Sexual Respect at Gettysburg College has the opportunity to provide more support and seek out more resources for students where they are needed now that these changes have been made. In Blaugher’s words, they “aren’t just doing the bare minimum.”
The Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX Office on campus is currently working in partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) in order to connect students with equitable advisors if they choose to do so and cannot afford an attorney on their own. “It is not required to have an equitable advisor,” said Blaugher, “but we wanted to make sure that if someone wanted that, we could be able to provide those measures.”
Title IX jurisdiction does not define all forms of sexual misconduct, nor do the changes in regulations affect all of the ways in which the Office of Sexual Respect can provide help for students who have or are experiencing sexual misconduct. “As an institution, we are still addressing all forms of sexual misconduct, those that happen outside of that Title IX jurisdiction, [and] all of those things that don’t reach the narrow definition that the Department of Education has provided,” she explained.
The chief message Blaugher wished to share with students is, “we’re still here. We have not changed our offerings. What has changed is the process for something that may reach that Title IX threshold.”
Sexual misconduct can still take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX can still provide assistance to students who may be experiencing it. Students who are studying remotely might be sexually disrespected through social media or in their online classes. These students can report these forms of sexual misconduct to the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX.
Blaugher commented on the current conditions of living in a pandemic and its connection to sexual misconduct, including the priorities of providing resources and ensuring the safety of those with concerns: “We know that these things are still happening, and not just in the online world. We still handle dating violence, domestic violence, concerns … those are all things that we’re still going to continue to see during the time of COVID, and yes, we are going to see sexual assault,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to feel discouraged. We are still here.”
Students can report acts and concerns regarding sexual misconduct at the Gettysburg College website and through the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX homepage. Resources are also available at the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX Instagram account: @Gburgsexualrespectandtitle9.