AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas System Board of Regents overhauled its systemwide sexual harassment policy at a special meeting Wednesday to comply with new Title IX regulations.
The expansive changes to the policy include offering more to people who make sexual harassment and misconduct claims, along with changes to how hearings are conducted.
The person advising the claimant will now be able to ask questions of the person accused or any witnesses. The regents also added clauses regarding emergency removal and employee administrative leave.
Investigators will also be required to give a reasonable timeframe in which complaint investigations will be completed.
Here are all the changes to the UT system’s policy:
- Emphasizing that, by reporting sexual misconduct to the University, all complainants will be offered individualized supportive measures, with or without the filing of a formal complaint to the University; if a formal complaint is filed, both parties are offered individualized services.
- Changing the section titled “interim measures” to “supportive measures” to mirror the Title IX regulations; and emphasizing that supportive measures are tailored to the individualized needs of the parties and are non-disciplinary and non-punitive measures that no not unreasonably burden the other party.
- Revising the grievance process to clarify the purpose of the investigation stage is to gather and consider evidence relating to a formal complaint against a student or employee when the allegations meet the definition of “sexual harassment” and the jurisdictional criteria under Title IX, with the determination regarding responsibility of a possible policy violation occurring at a hearing in accordance with the Title IX regulations.
- Revising the definition of “sexual harassment” to include unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex to be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the institution’s education program or activity” as defined in the Title IX regulations.
- Revising the definition of “other inappropriate sexual conduct” to include conduct that no longer meets the revised definition of “sexual harassment” under the Title IX regulations, but is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile environment.
- Including a definition of “sex discrimination.”
- Including provisions for mandatory and discretionary dismissals of formal complaints under the Title IX regulations and/or in accordance with the policy.
- Revising the informal resolution option to include a provision that it is not permitted in cases where “sexual harassment” is alleged in the formal complaint.
- Clarifying that a respondent is presumed not responsible for the alleged conduct and that the determination regarding responsibility will be made at the conclusion of the grievance process.
- Including a Title IX provision that knowingly making false statements or knowingly submitting false information during the grievance process is prohibited.
- Including Title IX provisions requiring a hearing which most notably (a) require a party’s advisor to ask relevant questions of the other party and any witnesses who participate in the hearing, and (b) require the University to provide an advisor for the hearing if a complainant or respondent does not have one.
- Adding a section for appeals (a) of determinations regarding responsibility or (b) from the University’s dismissal of a formal complaint under Title IX or under the policy
- Including a section for emergency removal (from the University’s education program or activity) and employee administrative leave
- Adding an alternative grievance process for formal complaints against students when allegations do not include “sexual harassment” to provide a prompt, equitable, and impartial process and to maintain compliance with other federal and state laws
- Adding anticipated timeframes to complete an investigation, informal resolution process, and overall grievance process (including any appeal) in reasonable timeframes
In March, former University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves signed off on changes to the university’s sexual harassment policy after months of student-led protests and an outside law firm reviewing the university’s policies at the time.
It changed the presumptive punishment for faculty members who, through a thorough investigation, have committed sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or interpersonal violence, to termination.
It also changed if there is a case in which a UT employee is found to have engaged in one of these four types of misconduct and is not terminated because of mitigating factors, that information will be compiled and made publicly available, while preserving the privacy of the survivors.