University to Host Open Discussion on Title IX Regulations

Three listening sessions to gather student feedback on the U.S. Department of Education’s Nov. 16 proposed changes to Title IX regulations are scheduled for next week, the university announced in a campuswide email Wednesday morning. The university is reviewing the regulations and will eventually offer a formal response independently or jointly with peer universities, according to the email, signed by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. First, however, the university will host open community meetings intended to collect student feedback on changes, a move unprecedented in recent years. “We face many complex issues as a nation, and sexual harassment and assault continue to demand our attention and action,” DeGioia wrote. “As an academic community, we have a responsibility to engage this issue thoughtfully and to pursue positive solutions.” The listening sessions will be hosted by Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny (LAW ’87)  and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson; they will be held in the Leavey Center and the Healey Family Student Center. Those unable to attend the sessions on Dec. 3, Dec. 6 or Dec. 10 have the option to digitally submit feedback via the RSVP form. The proposed Nov. 16 Title IX regulations reduce the number of instances of sexual harassment that universities must investigate, including eliminating off-campus incidents for consideration, and provide more rights to the accused, such as allowing lawyers for the accused to cross-examine the accuser.   “The proposed regulations are intended to promote the purpose of Title IX by requiring recipients to address sexual harassment, assisting and protecting victims of sexual harassment and ensuring that due process protections are in place for individuals accused of sexual harassment,” according to the Department of Education. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has long promised updated Title IX regulations and in 2017 withdrew two Obama-era guiding documents, including the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” that required universities to use the lowest-possible legal standard of proof in an attempt to protect the accuser. After the release of the proposed regulations, nearly 300 students signed a letter requesting that Georgetown University submit a comment opposing the regulations and urging transparency in the institutional response. Students delivered the letter, organized by Students Taking Action Against Interpersonal Violence, to the Office of the President on Nov. 16. STAIV declined to provide comment before publication but will be releasing a statement on DeGioia’s email Wednesday night. At the time of the letter’s delivery, Kilkenny affirmed the university’s commitment to preventing sexual misconduct and supporting survivors. “We will continue to focus on education and prevention, support for survivors, and prompt and equitable processes to respond to reports and complaints of sexual misconduct,” Kilkenny said in an article published by The Hoya on Nov. 20. “Our current policies and processes continue to remain in place. We will carefully review the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX regulations.” The proposed new rules are currently under a 60-day comment period, in which individuals and groups, such as the university, can submit feedback. The listening sessions, more of which will be announced for the Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University Medical School, are part of the university’s review process of the proposed regulations to develop a response. DeGioia’s email emphasized the work of the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Advisory Committee regarding sexual misconduct prevention and education, including the launch of a second campus climate survey, set to open in the spring semester. “Georgetown University remains deeply committed to eradicating all forms of sexual assault and misconduct on campus and to providing an environment in which all members of our community can pursue their very best work,” DeGioia wrote. “We look forward to engaging with you on these important steps ahead.”

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