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Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, and one of the lead creators of the policy proposals. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

,A leaked proposal from the Department of Education obtained by the New York Times included Title IX regulations and procedures that would contradict Princeton’s current Title IX policies under “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities.” Should the leaked proposal become federal guidelines and the University chooses to follow them, it would likely alter the University’s current Title IX policies. 

The leaked proposal would require that universities only adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct that take place on campus or in campus-related programs. As an example, the Times wrote that this proposal would not include incidents in off-campus parties.

This policy differs from the one currently held by the University, which states that incidents associated with the University in areas near campus, such as the eating clubs, are still under the scope of its Title IX policy. 

“This policy applies to conduct that occurs on University property (i.e., on campus) and in the local vicinity,” “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” states.

The new rules would also limit the scope of the University’s responsibility in regard to the reports it receives, making it only legally responsible for complaints that are made to specific University officials.

“The new rules would require that institutions only be held legally responsible for investigating formal complaints and responding to reports that school officials have ‘actual knowledge’ of happening,” the New York Times wrote. “A formal complaint is one made to ‘an official who has the authority to institute corrective measures,’ not, for instance, a residential adviser in a dormitory.”

Currently, even if no official report has been made, the University still has responsibility to respond to any information that would suggest a violation of Title IX policy.

“Lack of a formal complaint does not diminish the University’s obligation to respond to information suggestive of sex discrimination or sexual misconduct,” “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” states.

The leaked proposal is not officially proposed at this time and is still subject to change by the Department of Education. According to the Times report, the Department of Education said that the leaked information from the proposal is “premature and speculative.”

Michele Minter, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity, wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian that official detailed comment from the University on the new plan would likely not come until after the Department of Education’s plans had been made official. Given that the University is a private institution and that the proposed plans are still subject to change, the University made no predictions on what effect the plans could have on University policy, if any.

“At this stage, we are monitoring press reports but reserving judgment until OCR [Office for Civil Rights] releases the proposed regulations,” Minter wrote. “Even then, there will be a public comment period that could result in further changes before the final version of the regulations becomes official. As a result, it feels premature to comment in detail on the impact of potential changes.”

Minter also added that any changes to University policy would require approval by the faculty and the Council of the Princeton University Community. This need for approval would provide the opportunity for community input and participation.

According to a second article in the New York Times about the plan, the Department of Education estimates that the number of investigations by colleges and school districts into complaints of sexual harassment, assault, and rape would decrease substantially.

“The department projected that colleges and universities currently conduct an average of 1.18 sexual harassment investigations each per year, and that under the new rule, the figure would fall to 0.72 investigations per year, a decline of 39 percent,” the Times wrote.

According to the University’s Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Discipline Report for 2017–18, 33 cases of violations of the University’s Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy were adjudicated over the 2017–18 school year. In 17 of those cases, the respondents were found responsible, 12 of which were students and five of which were employees.

In the 2016–17 school year, 18 cases were adjudicated. In 13 of those cases the respondents were found responsible, 12 of which were students and one of which was a faculty member.

According to the We Speak 2017 Survey, which 47 percent of the student body took, one in five undergraduate women who responded noted that they had experienced inappropriate sexual behavior during the past academic year.

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