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Students protest against the University’s enforcement of Title IX regulations.

Photo Credit: Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

On Thursday, Oct. 24, the University released two reports, both authorized in the wake of student protests last semester, about its adjudication of Title IX cases.

The first report, which provides recommendations about the University’s Title IX process, was produced by an independent external review, while the second one was released by an internal Joint Committee, comprised of members of the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct and the University Student Life Committee.

In addition to the reports, Provost and Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Deborah Prentice released an open letter to the campus community, in which she asked the administration to focus on the areas in which the reports recommend improvements. Prentice wrote that she “would like to receive advice” on the implementation of a variety of changes by the end of the calendar year.

With regards to recommended changes in the University’s adjudication processes, Prentice has asked Ramona Romero, Vice President and the University’s General Counsel, “to assess these recommendations and to advise us on how best to address them,” noting that “implementing changes in this area is especially challenging because such changes must align with federal regulations and guidance relating to Title IX, which are periodically revised.”

Prentice also asked Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun to present a plan for the enhancement of resources for students through the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) program, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), and “new programs” by the end of 2019, with the goal of implementation by the end of the academic year.

Additionally, Prentice wrote that “[t]he reports recommend that the University explore alternative procedures and practices for resolving complaints about sexual misconduct and restoring the complainant, the respondent, and the community outside of the regular Title IX procedures.”

According to Prentice, a “working group” is already discussing this issue, but in light of the recommendations, Prentice is asking the group to “accelerate its work” and produce its own set of recommendations by the end of 2019.

She said the University community “will have many opportunities to discuss these reports as a campus community, beginning with an initial discussion at the CPUC [Council of the Princeton University Community] meeting in November.”

Prentice asked the CPUC to create a new committee on sexual misconduct, which will replace the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct and develop “a plan for implementing the reports’ recommendations on training, communication and engagement.”

The creation of the new committee will be on the CPUC agenda at the Council’s Nov. 11 meeting.

The University undertook both the external review and the work of the joint committee after a ten-day protest, organized by Princeton Students for Title IX Reform, held outside of Nassau Hall last May.

Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter responds to a question during a CPUC meeting in May 2019.

Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

The joint committee is primarily concerned with the functioning of Title IX mechanisms at the University, along with questions of how to create additional support structures for students. The external review aims to “provide useful clarity and strengthen trust in the University’s Title IX process,” according to the initial request for the review by Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter.

The joint committee is co-chaired by Calhoun; undergraduate Nicolas Gregory ’22; graduate students Mai Nguyen and Abigail Novick; and J. Nicole Shelton, Stuart Professor of Psychology and Head of Butler College.  

Since May, the joint committee has held more than 20 meetings “with a variety of students and administrators.”

According to the Office of Communications, the joint committee also worked with an “outside consultant,” who facilitated focus groups with “RCAs, SHARE Peer officers, student leaders from the Centers (Fields Center, LGBT Center, and Women*s Center), Graduate Women in STEM, and student protest delegates.”

The joint committee report contains 19 recommendations.

Of these, five come from the “Support and advocacy for complainants and respondents” section. These include recommendations that “the Title IX Office create a new administrative role to assist students in navigating the Title IX and appeal process” and that “current annual training for Title IX Advisers be expanded.”

The report also lists multiple recommendations in regards to “the sexual misconduct investigation, adjudication and appeal process,” “alternative (non-disciplinary) approaches to addressing harm,” and “support for mental health provided through Counseling and Psychological Services.”

On the topic of “campus climate and culture,” the committee recommended the University expand the capacity of the SHARE Office, that the SHARE and Title IX Offices expand customized information and training for graduate students, and that the University reexamine and potentially revise its definition of “retaliation” in formal policies.

Title IX protesters form a circle around Nassau Hall in May 2019.

Photo Credit: Claire Silberman / The Daily Princetonian

The external review, meanwhile, was requested by Minter and Director of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration Regan Crotty. According to Deputy University Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss, the reviewers were chosen by University Provost Deborah Prentice.

“As stated in our May 10, 2019 update, Provost Deborah Prentice oversees the external Title IX review process. She selected the external review committee based on their qualifications and extensive relevant experience in this area,” Hotchkiss wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian.

The members of the external review are Amy Adelman, who serves as Deputy General Counsel at Emory University’s Office of the General Counsel, Howard Kallem (ret.), formerly the Director for Title IX Compliance at Duke University’s Office for Institutional Equity, Duke University, and Laura Rugless, Executive Director and Title IX Coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Equity and Access Services.

The executive summary of the external review states that “the University has a strong Title IX infrastructure,” but “some students feel that their needs are not being met.”

The external review team, according to this summary, “identified a need to assess capacity and resources for the Title IX Office and SHARE; enhance training, awareness, and information sharing with the University community; and improve upon support services and coordination across partner offices and individuals.”

Editor’s Note: This story is breaking and will be updated with more information. Comprehensive coverage of the contents of the reports and the University’s “next steps” is to follow.

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