Changes made to the national and Valparaiso University Title IX policies over the summer were discussed by Student Senate in a town hall meeting. The discussion took place over Google Meet on Aug. 31.
Title IX is a civil rights law that protects against discrimination based on sex, as well as sexual harassment in education. Federal changes were made to Title IX in May that resulted in alterations to qualifying claims and the trial process in Valpo’s policy going into effect on Aug. 14.
Valpo’s current Title IX Coordinator is LaShun McGhee. She replaced Janelle Ramselon Sept. 8. The Title IX Coordinator is a nonconfidential resource, along with VUPD, RAs, faculty, and staff. Students wishing to find support in a confidential resource can contact the SAAFE office and Assistant Director Natalie Muskin-Press.
Some changes to the policy were federally mandated, while others came from faculty and students responses to the former proceedings. Several committees discussed and voted on possible changes before final decisions were made. The committees involved were the President’s Council, the Title IX Working Group, Leadership Group, Faculty Forum and Student Forum.
Key points of the Title IX policy remain the same after consideration. The new policy changes will not be retroactively applied to previous claims, while all going forward will fall under the new jurisdiction. It was ruled that Valpo will continue to address complaints involving students that occurred off campus, such as fraternity houses or off campus apartments.
The federal guidelines allow universities to decide between using preponderance of the evidence (decision made by most convincing evidence) or a clear and convincing standard (ruling made by seemingly definite proof). Valpo chose to continue using the preponderance of the evidence standard that was previously in place. Recommendations were also made for a formal campus policy that will expand on and reference the Title IX policy, though one has not been approved yet.
One new change to the federal Title IX policy has been subject to widespread backlash. The clause limits the sexual misconduct incidents to those that qualify for being taken into consideration. Incidents of discrimination that would have formerly applied are no longer deemed severe enough to be investigated as a Title IX violation.
Ramsel explained that members of the Student Forum had expressed concern that these limitations may discourage students from filing a claim. To combat this, Valpo has created the “Valparaiso University Office for Civil Rights” to take claims of discrimination that are no longer protected under Title IX. The new office is meant merely to help with confusion over the new changes, as claims to both the Office for Civil Rights and the Title IX Office go to the Title IX Coordinator, LaShun McGhee.
Other changes involve what is and is not allowed to occur during a Title IX trial. Hearings are now required to be live or over video call, where previously victims were able to avoid reliving their experiences with the perpetrator in the room. Students can now also be cross examined, forcing them to go through questioning regarding the assault. However, an advisor can be used as a spokesperson for them throughout the trial. These Discrimination Complaint Advisors are faculty members who assist students and offer advice for both those who have been victimized and accused.
A recording of the entire Student Senate Title IX town hall with more extensive explanations of the harassment and nondiscrimination policies can be found on the Student Senate’s website. Additional resources regarding Title IX at Valparaiso University can be found in the SAAFE Office and at https://www.valpo.edu/titleix/