Towson University updates Title IX policy

By Kyle Hobstetter on August 30, 2020

Revisions a response to changes made at federal level

Towson University’s Title IX policy looks different at the start of the 2020 fall term. Identical changes have been implemented at colleges and universities throughout the country and were mandated by the United States government.

Title IX is a federal law, implemented in 1972, that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter to universities and colleges. This letter interpreted that Title IX also needed to address instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.

Starting in the 2020 school year, the federal government has amended Title IX and made some regulatory changes, updated definitions and some procedures pursuant to Title IX.

Changes to Title IX

CHANGE: Policy 06-01.60, previously titled the “Policy on Sexual Misconduct,” has been renamed the “Policy on Sexual Harassment and other Sexual Misconduct.”

CHANGE: The definition of sexual harassment. It now focuses on severe, pervasive conduct that is objectionably offensive. Previously it read “…severe, pervasive or is objectionably offensive”. Reporters must meet both elements to prove that someone has been denied an educational opportunity. 

IMPLICATION: The university will still address instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment, regardless of where they occur. But the new regulations specifically say that students have to show how the conduct impacts or interferes with an educational opportunity, activity or program. 

By definition, if an incident happens off campus, or on a property that isn’t owned or substantially controlled by the university, it can’t impact the educational opportunity, program or activity. 

But while these incidents would not be a Title IX violation, they would be a policy violation. So the university would still address it under its Title IX policies and its discrimination policies.

CHANGE: How the university handles cases involving faculty and staff. Previously the singular adjudicator model was used, meaning that the Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity would investigate and adjudicate any filed complaints.

Now, staff and faculty, like students, can have a panel to hear their case. 

CHANGE: The addition of an adviser/support person. Any party who is charged with, responding to or reporting an incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault will have the opportunity to have an adviser—which can be an attorney—and a support person through every step of the process. 

IMPLICATION: During a live hearing, there is now a cross examination. That means the adviser will be allowed to question both the reporting and responding parties. 

The Towson University Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity (OIIE) is ready to engage with students and recommends students reach out to OIIE so the staff can help students understand the new procedures and process. 

“We’re still here for our campus community,” says Patricia Bradley, assistant vice president of equity and compliance and the Title IX coordinator at Towson University. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure students know they have a reporting option. 

“We are here for supportive measures, and we are trying to create an environment that is free of sexual harassment and sexual assault and to make sure there is no disparate treatment toward any specific gender.”

For members of the Towson University community who need to report a Title IX violation, they can do so confidentially online. Towson University also has resources available for faculty and staff, a look at the grievance procedures and frequently asked questions on sexual misconduct.