By Madison Pena
The College has begun adapting to the new nationally-mandated Title IX policies released on May 6 by Secretary of the Department of Education Betsy DeVos. The new policies include creating a narrower definition of sexual harassment, incorporating informal cross-examination hearings and requiring schools to dismiss allegations of sexual harassment that occur outside of campus-controlled buildings.
Although the released guideline document was over 2,000 pages, several areas are left up to the discretion of individual administrations for how to adopt certain policies, according to Chelsea Jacoby, the Title IX coordinator at the College. Any college or university that receives federal funding must comply with the new policies by August 14.
“As we continue to review the final rule over the next few weeks, we will be exploring how to maximize this autonomy and implement the new requirements that preserve the fairness, thoroughness, and student-centered philosophy that resonates with the College’s values,” Jacoby said.
Despite these provisions being added, Jacoby said that the College is able to have some flexibility regarding the more severe provisions, namely the incorporation of live cross-examinations and dismissing incidents that occur off-campus.
“TCNJ offers students multiple resolution options, including Alternative Resolution Process, which is grounded in restorative justice and doesn’t involve a hearing or punitive outcome,” she said.
As far as dismissing off-campus allegations, Jacoby said that “there is flexibility for the College to still address the incident (or) behavior under other College policies (or) codes on conduct.”
With the final policy not yet solidified, Jacoby said it’s hard to anticipate what changes may come to the College’s campus policies and procedures regarding Title IX cases. However, she is confident that incidents of sexual violence will continue to be addressed and prevented.
Jordan Draper, the assistant vice president for student affairs and the dean of students, expressed similar sentiments in an opinion piece published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, addressing how these new regulations could impact the campus community.
She wrote that there “is no one size fits all” solution for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct, and that in the end, students should have choices when it comes to how to resolve the issue. According to Draper, the new provisions allow for the possibility of informal resolutions that were not explicitly stated in prior Title IX regulations.
For some students, these policy changes are raising concerns.
“Whether these regulations were developed with good intentions, they are not welcomed by me and I’m sure many others,” said Brittany Kroeckel, a rising senior elementary education and psychology dual major. “This will not only deter victims from coming forward, like myself, but it will most likely increase the number of these cases happening.”
According to Jacoby, since the regulations are still new and being sorted through, the administration is still working to connect with students to hear their feedback — but has acknowledged that there have been concerns expressed regarding how the College community will move forward.
“The majority of those who’ve connected with us so far have generally expressed concerns about how new guidelines may impact our campus and are looking for some answers and clarity moving forward,” she said.
She said the College is continuing to review the feedback they have received while providing regular updates to the campus community.
“We know that this information can be dense and challenging to digest, so we promise to do our best to share that information with the campus in a way that is clear, transparent, and understandable, as opposed to just pages of legal jargon,” Jacoby said.