Updated on Nov. 10 at 4:04 p.m. to reflect that a campus-wide email about Title IX updates was sent in May 2020 and changed wording that was misleading.
By Cady Inabinett
The university’s Title IX Coordinator Tony Miller explained changes to Title IX regulations at the most recent Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 8.
The most recent changes to Title IX were made in May 2020. According to Miller, he spoke to the Faculty Senate about it, “because last year everything was virtual and COVID safety was the university’s number one priority.”
However, a campus-wide email was sent in May 2020 outlining the updates to the policy.
Miller added that the new regulations aim to direct educational institutions on how to handle sexual misconduct cases in a way that Miller says is fair to all parties.
One of the changes made was to the definition of sexual harassment. Miller outlined the new definition as, “Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the University of Montevallo’s education program or activity.”
This definition includes quid quo pro as well, which Miller defined as, “an employee of the University of Montevallo, conditioning the provision of an aid, benefit, or service of the University of Montevallo, on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct.”
Miller pointed out some notable changes made to Title IX regulations. One of the most major changes is that a student can’t be punished for sexual misconduct before responsibility for their wrongdoing is found. This regulation aims to emphasize due process and set a higher burden of proof in Title IX cases.
This move addresses a criticism against a 2011 Title IX guidance that called for a burden of proof analysis known as “preponderance of the evidence,” in which the party alleging wrongdoing must convince the fact-finding body that there is a 50% chance their claim of wrongdoing is true. Essentially, this guidance created a lower burden of proof than the current regulation, in hopes to make the Title IX process less daunting to victims of sexual misconduct.
Additionally, new regulations require each party involved in a Title IX case—both the party alleging wrongdoing and the party alleged to have committed wrongdoing, to have an advisor during the investigation process. Students may select their own advisor, but, if they do not select one, the university must assign them one.
An advisor, according to the university’s Title IX guidelines, is, “The person chosen by a party or appointed by the institution to accompany the party to meetings related to the resolution process, to advise the party on that process, and to conduct cross-examination for the party at the hearing, if any.”
Another update to Title IX regulations sets boundaries on what the university cannot process as a Title IX complaint. Miller outlined that the university “must dismiss” a Title IX formal complaint if the reported behavior, “Does not fall under new regulations definition of sexual harassment,” didn’t occur in a university program or didn’t occur in the United States.
Miller also listed who on campus are officials with authority—a person who, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is someone with the power to, “institute corrective measures on the recipient’s behalf.” At Montevallo this includes, not just Miller, but also University President Dr. John Stewart, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Dr. Tammi Dahle, Vice President for Administrative Affairs Dr. Kristy Lee, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Mary Beth Armstrong, Director of Athletics Mark Richard, Director of Human Resources Barbara Forrest and Senior Associate Athletic Director Dawn Makofski.
Cady Inabinett is the managing editor of content for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies and generally just being pretentious in her free time.