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New Title IX Guidelines Pose Challenges for Colleges During Covid

JANMARIS PEREZ, HOST: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has finalized rules for governing sexual assault cases on college campuses. But the new guidelines are over 2000 pages long and the deadline is just 100 days away. That means that schools are concerned about how they’ll be able to implement the changes - like live hearings which, because of COVID-19, now have to be offered virtually. I spoke to Jennifer Henkle with Culture of Respect. She used to manage Title IX cases. Now she helps colleges and universities make changes to end campus sexual violence. I asked her what concerns colleges are hearing. JENNIFER HENKLE: The concerns that those organizations have are about some of the things like the live hearing, about some of these things like the standard of evidence. There's a concern that these types of live hearings can be traumatizing for survivors and for those who are coming forward and reporting something. There is a lack of clarification as to who should be advising and who has the expertise to be advising. These are the individuals who will be cross examining each party and the witnesses. One party has the ability to have a lawyer, the other party doesn't have the ability or they can't afford a lawyer and maybe has a parent or a friend serve as their advisor. What does that mean for the experience of the reporting or responding party who is utilizing this person as their advisor? Does this create an unfair process in the end? PEREZ: What are some specific challenges that we're going to face to try and implement these on these campuses? HENKLE: I think, given the shutdown of campuses due to COVID as well as many institutions having to currently furlough employees or put in hiring freezes, they're not going to be able to hire the additional staff that this requires in 100 days. They’re not going to be able to pull together and get everything done in 100 days in a way that is meaningful, and does this responsibly. There are students out there who have a lack in basic needs. They may not be able to get to a safe and private space that has internet so they can do these live hearings virtually. And if they're not able during COVID-19, particularly, to be in the same space as their advisors, how are they going to have that private conversation. In person, it's a little easier because institutions can provide a room, but the nature of the world as it is now doesn't allow for that in the same way. PEREZ: Do you think there'll be a high number of schools that won't be able to comply with all these things like hiring freezes? HENKLE: I know that institutions are creative and resilient. So ultimately, what we want institutions to know is that this is and remember is that this is the floor, not the ceiling. So how do we help you as institutions set that floor and implement these policies in order to become compliant, and then work together after that to do better. I think the vast majority will have those together in that hundred days, even though it may be incredibly difficult. It's once we get to the end of that that we want to make sure that we're moving beyond and really reaching for that ceiling. PEREZ: That was Jennifer Henkle from Culture of Respect at NASPA. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for speaking with us today. HENKLE: Thank you so much for having me.


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