Responding to New Title IX Regulations, May 11, 2020
Dear students, staff and faculty:
Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued new regulations regarding how colleges and universities must investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct complaints. Smith receives funding from the federal government, so we are required to comply with these regulations. I am writing to you to let you know that I am deeply disappointed with the substance and likely damaging effects of these new regulations, because I believe they will discourage victims from reporting sexual misconduct.
The regulations largely disregard concerns raised by colleges and universities during the public comment period. Smith endorsed a statement submitted by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), expressing members’ concerns, including this strong statement: "many aspects of the proposed regulations may undermine rather than advance Title IX's very purpose." Specifically, and against our recommendations, the new regulations narrow the definition of sexual harassment and impose additional burdensome procedural requirements, specifying that hearings will include live cross-examination of victims. These changes will surely reverse hard-fought progress in addressing and preventing sexual misconduct on college campuses.
The new regulations will take effect on August 14, 2020. In the coming weeks, we will convene our Title IX and sexual assault response team to update our policies to comply with federal law. At the same time, we will protect our current procedures, to the extent possible, to ensure an equitable, thorough and sensitive process for all involved. As we do this work, rest assured that our goal—to prevent gender-based and sexual misconduct at Smith—remains unchanged and steadfast.