WASHINGTON, May 7, 2020 — American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) President Mildred García today expressed deep consternation regarding the Department of Education’s release of its final rule on Title IX and sexual harassment at postsecondary institutions as well as elementary and secondary schools. “Having to implement this new regulatory language at this time is quite onerous and preposterous since its implementation will be in the middle of August at a time when all of our campuses are working and teaching remotely. It is insensitive and unrealistic by the department,” García said.
Higher education institutions take very seriously the conditions that activate an institution’s obligation to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and understand the responsibilities under existing federal and state laws. AASCU certainly appreciates and supports the need for necessary regulations to provide all students, faculty and staff with a safe, respectful and enriching environment conducive to teaching and learning. However, the rule poses some major concerns.
“One of the most noteworthy worries we have with the new rule is the unintended consequences of language in the regulation that requires a live hearing with direct cross examination by the respondent’s counsel. We are concerned that this new requirement is very likely to discourage the reporting of campus sexual misconduct incidents by forcing the victim to relive the event,” García added.
AASCU joined more than 30 other higher education associations in sending a letter to urge Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to delay the publication of the final rule. The letter read, “At a time when institutional resources already are stretched thin, colleges and universities should not be asked to divert precious resources away from more critical efforts in order to implement regulations unrelated to this extraordinary crisis.”
AASCU is dismayed this sound recommendation was ignored by the Department of Education and that the new rule is slated to take effect on August 14. Educational institutions are now required to adapt all of their relevant internal procedures, train all appropriate staff, implement these new activities, and communicate the new measures to the entire academic community in three months, under existing social distancing practices and when the vast majority of staff members are working remotely and many campuses are implementing furloughs.
AASCU will continue its analysis of the new rule and provide its members with additional information, analysis and support as appropriate. AASCU expects the new rule will generate significant litigation and possible congressional action to alter the rule or its implementation timeline. The rule has not yet been scheduled for official publication in the Federal Register.
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.- based higher education association of nearly 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise of Opportunities for All.