Faculty Requests Title IX Clarity

In response to an increased amount of faculty members requesting clarification on the university’s sexual misconduct policies, members of the California Lutheran University Title IX Committee held a faculty panel discussion Feb. 28 after an initial briefing held Oct. 5. There were 27 faculty members in attendance.

Title IX is formally known as a law that is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The law states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Title IX Committee at Cal Lutheran consists of faculty from Human Resources, Campus Safety, Student Life, Residence Life, and Student Conduct.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security report, there were six reported cases of sexual misconduct or assault in 2015 at Cal Lutheran’s Thousand Oaks campus.

Jim McHugh, the Title IX coordinator, said that the annual security report only documents cases of sexual misconduct or assault that have been reported to Student Conduct, Student Life or Campus Safety.

The report does not document cases that have not been resolved, McHugh said.

Any instances of sexual misconduct or assault that have not been reported to a mandated faculty reporter or Title IX Campus Life office go unrecorded. When asked if there were any active investigations on campus, McHugh said he would “rather not say.”

“If we get a report or some sort of claim, we investigate if it is a Title IX issue to begin with,” McHugh said. “If it doesn’t classify as a Title IX offense, it gets referred to Student Conduct and they take it from there.”

McHugh said a Title IX offense is classified as an offense that was committed on the basis of gender or sex, and involves the discrimination or sexual mistreatment thereof. Domestic violence in a residence hall, or the physical violence against a roommate, is not considered a Title IX offense, McHugh said during the panel discussion.

McHugh said the process of investigating a reported Title IX offense “needs to have 60 days to come up with a resolution,” a time frame that is only extended if “the notifying party wants to delay for any reason.”

During the panel discussion Feb. 28, more than one faculty member asked the Title IX Committee about the investigation process in the event of a reported instance of sexual misconduct. Assistant Dean to the Students and Director of Residence Life Chris Paul said the investigation of such cases is non-legal, and is classified as an administrative process. McHugh affirmed this statement in a phone interview.

“This is not a judicial process of any sort,” McHugh said. “It is possible for a lawyer, adviser or advocate to be involved on behalf of the reporting party, but they aren’t really able to participate because it is an administrative process.”

Paul said the university policy of preponderance of evidence for cases of sexual misconduct or any Title IX offense is “50 percent chance plus a feather that we think that it happened” and “not beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Additionally, the reporting party can make a request for a “no contact order” that stands as “the university’s version of a restraining order,” according to the Title IX Committee.

Paul said if there is insufficient evidence that the offense took place, the investigation is closed immediately. The investigator assigned to each case of misconduct does so under “tight confidentiality,” Paul said.

Paul said requesting a “no contact order” does not protect the reporting party outside of the university campus, and that the Title IX Committee will “have to trust that the order be held up by the reported individual or individuals.”

Some faculty members that attended the discussion expressed concerned over the university’s policy of a single investigator assigned to each case, questioning if a panel of investigators during the initial stages of investigation would be beneficial to completing the resolution process.

Amelia George, assistant professor of sociology, said she has never reported any cases of sexual misconduct on campus, but is “concerned about the conflict of interest in a single investigation done by administration faculty.”

Additionally, McHugh said during the discussion that many factors are involved in determining if an offense can be classified as a Title IX offense, including if the reporting party is “carrying baggage around with them on campus” and if “it is affecting their daily life.”

Faculty questioned the credibility of an assigned investigator determining the psychological condition of the reporting party rather than a licensed psychologist or therapist.

“I hope that Tuesday’s faculty forum was the first in what becomes an ongoing dialogue because it’ll be helpful to continue discussing how new collaborations can benefit our shared goals of preventing sex and gender-based harassment and sexual violence,” Adina Nack, professor or sociology, said in an email interview. “As well as providing the best possible processes and support for those who are affected.”

The panel discussion was assembled in response to increased requests for policy clarification by faculty members, and is not scheduled to be held again outside of traditional faculty training.

Olivia Schouten
Staff Writer