Op-Ed: Title IX at Cal Lutheran

This is an Op-Ed submission. Opinions expressed are solely of the writer(s) and do not express the views or opinions of The Echo. All California Lutheran University students and employees are invited to submit Op-Eds to [email protected]

California Lutheran University does not tolerate harassment in its programs or activities. Engaging in any harassing conduct prohibited under Cal Lutheran’s policies, including the university’s Title IX Policy, violates the values of our community and stands in stark opposition to the university’s mission to educate leaders who are strong in character, identity, and vocation and committed to service and justice. Cal Lutheran has always taken very seriously any allegations of harassment by any member of the community and will continue to do so. 

Over the decades that the law known as Title IX has been in effect, the nature of the law itself has evolved to cover discrimination including athletic parity, sexual harassment and sexual assault. The processes and procedures required by Title IX and California law have similarly gone through many changes over the past decade. Due to the many questions and conversations regarding Title IX taking place on campus, we feel it is important to understand the basics of the university’s complaint handling process. The university’s Title IX Policy is a critical component of Cal Lutheran’s overall efforts to prevent harassment based on sex or gender, specifically. However, the Title IX Policy is not the only policy used by the university to combat harassment and discrimination, so we wanted to explain how the university approaches concerns of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, under the current laws. 

How Title IX reporting works

Allegations of misconduct can be reported to many different members of the campus community. Any Cal Lutheran community member or campus visitor who experiences or becomes aware of an incident of discrimination or harassment, including harassment prohibited by Title IX, should report the incident immediately to the Title IX Coordinator, or to any responsible employee, who is then required to disclose the report (there is an exception to this mandate for those who are considered confidential resources, such as counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services and campus pastors).

Once notification is received, the university must take action to address the alleged prohibited conduct. It is at this point that the university assesses the procedures to be applied, depending on the law. Under the August 2020 Title IX regulations, a Formal Complaint must be made for a Title IX investigation to begin under that policy. This means that the Title IX Office cannot always investigate social media posts or campus rumors via the Title IX process. However, other university policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment may be activated. 

After receipt of formal notification, the Title IX Office will reach out to the person making the report and/or the complainant. A complainant is an individual who is alleged to be the victim of conduct that could constitute sexual harassment under the university Title IX Policy. Sometimes the person making the report and the complainant are two different individuals. 

The Title IX Office will gather initial information, offer supportive measures such as access to counseling and describe the Title IX process to the complainant. If the complainant decides to file a Formal Complaint, that complaint will be officially recorded. Many complainants decide not to file a Formal Complaint. If that occurs, the university will still provide resources to assist the individual. 

If a Formal Complaint is filed, the Title IX Coordinator will determine if the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Title IX Policy. If it does, a thorough investigation and resolution is completed in accordance with the Title IX Policy. If it does not meet the requirements for adjudication under the Title IX Policy, the actions reported will be reviewed to determine if they may violate another campus policy, such as the Student Code of Conduct and the Human Resources Harassment, Discrimination, Biased Conduct and Retaliation Prohibition. If so, the matter will be referred to the appropriate office for continued adjudication. 

How Title IX procedures have changed 

At Cal Lutheran, all complaints of prohibited conduct have been and will continue to be fully investigated by the university. However, mandates from the federal and state government routinely change the manner and procedures in which complaints are handled. In August 2020, for example, new Title IX regulations from the Department of Education were implemented. These changes impacted the way our institution must apply Title IX policy and were highly prescriptive in detailing the process that the university must follow. 

However, the new procedures do not change the seriousness of how the university responds to allegations of misconduct. To be clear, Cal Lutheran has always taken allegations of misconduct seriously and investigates allegations of misconduct accordingly. Regardless of the changes under the Title IX Regulations, Cal Lutheran has and will continue to address all complaints of misconduct in accordance with the current state and federal laws.

Privacy laws

In addition to the laws and regulations around misconduct, there are also many laws concerning privacy. These laws prohibit the university and those conducting investigations from speaking openly about the results of inquiries regarding misconduct. These laws are in place to protect all involved in the report. Still, we acknowledge that it can be very frustrating for the community to hear about allegations of misconduct and not be updated about how those allegations are being addressed.

The university encourages reporting of all concerns

Ultimately, Title IX is a complex legal process that is made even more difficult by the serious and emotional nature of the issues it addresses. Cal Lutheran understands and embraces its obligations to the greater community and will continue to thoroughly investigate all claims of misconduct. We all want a campus community that allows students, faculty and staff to fulfill their passion and purpose. The Title IX Office stands ready to fulfill its mission and we encourage all community members to contact us with any questions about our process.