The American Council on Education submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education Monday, calling for changes to the Title IX amendments proposed by the Biden administration in June.
Nearly 50 higher education associations signed on to the Monday letter, which asked the ED to clarify institutional reporting requirements and Title IX coordinator responsibilities. Ahead of the letter’s submission, Harvard sent its own recommendations to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, a signatory on the letter.
The Biden administration’s draft Title IX amendments in June sought to clarify and enhance protections for survivors of sex-based discrimination and harassment in federally-funded educational insitutions.
The Monday letter raised concerns about the “expansive and convoluted set” of reporting obligations outlined in the June proposal for all school employees. The ED amendments would set different procedures for reporting Title IX violations depending on employees’ job duties.
“This will undoubtedly lead to confusion for employees about what their reporting responsibilities are, and for students who may wish to confide in a certain employee but be unclear what that employee’s reporting obligations are,” the letter states.
The letter recommends the ED simplify its proposed rules on reporting procedures to help students determine “whether confiding in a particular employee about their experience will trigger notification to their institution.”
“Colleges and universities strongly support efforts to encourage students and employees to report all sex-based discrimination to the institution,” the letter reads. “At the same time, the reporting expectations and system must align with individual campus structures and be simple enough to be clearly understood by all community members.”
The ED’s amendments also proposed the expansion of Title IX coordinator responsibilities to include obligations such as monitoring for obstacles to reporting misconduct and taking action to stop sex-based discrimination.
“By requiring the Title IX Coordinator to be responsible for — versus coordinating — certain compliance functions, the proposed rule would conflict with administrative structures on many campuses,” the ACE press release states.
Calling the role of Title IX coordinator “one of the most challenging jobs on a campus,” the letter recommended the removal of the new coordinator responsibilities.
The June proposal also sets new requirements for institutional grievance procedures of sex-based harassment complaints against employees. Monday’s letter claimed these procedures would likely conflict with existing state laws and employment at-will policies.
The signatories urged the ED to exempt employee-respondents from the proposed grievance procedures to ensure consistency with established policies.
“It is critical that the final regulations are sufficiently flexible to be effectively implemented across diverse institutions, reflect a sensible level of simplicity, and provide clarity about federal expectations for institutions and their community members,” they wrote.
—Staff writer Anjeli R. Macaranas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.