The House Republican education bill released on Friday would allow colleges to delay or suspend internal investigations related to sexual misconduct upon the request of law enforcement or prosecutors.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the bill is an overhaul of the Higher Education Act of 1965. It also comes two months after Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed several Obama-era regulations regarding Title IX.
The current policy at the University states that the University will “not wait for the conclusion of a criminal proceeding to begin its own investigation and, if needed...provide interim measures for the complainant.” This policy was reformed in 2014 after the University entered into a resolution agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights when the University was found to be in violation of Title IX.
The current policy also stipulates that an internal investigation be completed within 60 calendar days, as in accordance with the now-withdrawn “Dear Colleague” letter written during the Obama administration.
Criminal investigations, however, may carry on for months or even years.
“At more than 500 pages, the bill is quite lengthy and it will take us some time to review it. The introduction of the bill is the first step in what we expect will be a lengthy legislative process,” Assistant Vice President of Communications Dan Day wrote in an email. He declined further comment.
Director of Title IX administration Regan Crotty deferred comment to Day.
According to an article from Politico, Title IX advocates are concerned on the effects of this proposal on minors who attend institutions of higher education and who could be blocked from accessing resources on campus. Many states require minors to report to the police if they make a complaint at their school.
At the University, confidential resources have a legal obligation to disclose information shared with them “if there is suspected abuse or neglect of a minor.”
The 542-page bill also works out several other provisions on sexual misconduct. The legislation would allow colleges and universities to set their own standards for evidence, and it would require universities to conduct surveys on students’ general attitudes towards assault and the institution’s treatment of sexual violence on campus.