Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
Title IX states that:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
On May 6, 2020, the Department of Education published new regulations that outline how institutions must respond to allegations of sexual harassment. Consequently, the university revised its current sexual harassment policy and procedures to ensure compliance with the new regulations. The revised policy is the “Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy”.
In general, the regulations do the following:
- Clarify that Title IX prohibits sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and sex-based stalking.
- Require specific procedures for responding to reports and formal complaints of sexual harassment.
- Ensure that all parties have access to supportive measures regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed.
- Require a live hearing with cross examination as part of the formal resolution process.
Sexual Harassment means conduct, on the basis of sex, that satisfies one or more of the following:
- A university employee conditions the provision of an aid, benefit, or service on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct;
- Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the university’s programs or activities;
- Sexual Assault: formally defined in 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(6)(A)(v), means any sexual act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent (such as incapacitation, age, family relation to the other party, or intellectual or other disability). Sexual Assault can be committed by or against individuals of any sex or gender and can occur between individuals of the same sex/gender or different sexes/genders. The university will rely on the definition of sexual assault provided in the federal Uniform Crime Reporting system, which includes the following:
- sexual intercourse with another person, including oral or anal sexual intercourse, or the use of an object or instrument to unlawfully penetrate, however slightly, the genital or anal opening of the body of another person, without consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of their age or because of their temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity;
- touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of their age or because of their temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity;
- sexual intercourse between persons who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law; or
- sexual intercourse with a person who is under the statutory age of consent
- Dating Violence: formally defined in 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(1), means any act of violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim and where the existence of such a relationship is determined based on a consideration of the length, type, and frequency of interactions between the persons involved in the relationship.
- Domestic Violence: formally defined in 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(8), means a felony or misdemeanor crime of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.
- Stalking: formally as defined in 34 U.S.C. 12291(a)(30), means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress
The new regulations will require changes to the university’s resolution process, but the array of support services that the Title IX Office provides on a regular basis will remain in place. Members of our community can obtain support and services even if there is no formal complaint. These supportive measures include consultation with Elizabeth Wynkoop Riley, the Assistant Director for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, referrals for counseling or medical care, academic support, mutual no-contact orders, housing support, and referrals to community resources.
When reported conduct does not fall within the Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy, the university may refer those reports to other university offices for review and assessment (e.g., EEO, SRR, Faculty Affairs).
The university will continue to offer reasonable supportive measures to GW community members even if the reported conduct does not fall within Title IX’s jurisdiction and outside the scope of the University’s policy.
In addition, GW’s new policy may apply to conduct that occurs outside the university’s Programs or Activities when, in the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator:
1) there is close proximity between the reported conduct and the university community;
2) there is a sufficient nexus between the reported conduct and the university’s programs or activities; and/or
3) the reported conduct has alleged continuing adverse effects or creates a hostile environment on campus or in the university’s programs or activities.
Yes. The new formal resolution process will still involve a comprehensive investigation and a final investigative report issued by the Title IX Office. Under the previous policy, the final report included a determination regarding responsibility for the charge(s). As part of the new formal resolution process, the final investigative report will not include a determination regarding responsibility. Instead, a live hearing with cross-examination will be conducted after the final investigative report is issued. A hearing officer, who is not the investigator, will make a determination of responsibility after the hearing.
Cross examination means that parties and witnesses who participate in the hearing will be asked questions by the other party’s advisor. The hearing officer will make a determination as to the relevance of the question. If the hearing officer determines that the question is relevant, the person will be asked the question. If the hearing officer determines the question is not relevant, the question will be withdrawn. The hearing officer may also ask participating parties and witnesses questions but parties will not be allowed to directly question each other in the hearing.
The new policy includes detailed rules of decorum for the hearing process. These rules make it clear that parties and their respective advisor will not be allowed to yell, disrupt the proceedings, or engage in verbal abuse, interruptions, or name-calling. Individuals who violate these rules will be subject to removal from the proceedings. More information about the rules of decorum can be found in the Policy's Hearing Procedures.
No, while the hearing must be live and conducted in real-time, the parties have a right to be separated from one another and either party may request to participate remotely.
You have the right to consult with an advisor whenever you work with the Title IX Office. The advisor may be a lawyer but does not have to be. You must have an advisor in order to conduct cross-examination as part of the hearing process. If you do not have an advisor at the hearing, the university will provide an advisor for you for purposes of cross-examination.
We currently use and will continue to use the preponderance of the evidence standard. This means that the Hearing Officer must find that it is more likely than not that a policy violation occurred to make a finding of responsibility.
Alternative resolution is a voluntary and remedies-based resolution that may be available after a Formal Complaint is filed. Alternative resolution requires the mutual informed written consent of all parties and the university. Alternative resolution is not available to resolve allegations that an employee sexually harassed a student.
The new policy will continue to require certain university community members to report information they may learn about alleged or suspected Sexual Harassment to the Title IX Coordinator ("Designated Reporters"). This will help connect individuals who have been impacted by sexual harassment with trained professionals and available support services. For a list of individuals who are deemed Designated Reporters, please see the Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy.
The university's Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy applies to any conduct occurring within a university program or activity, including conduct occurring in online environments and through virtual communications.
The Title IX Office remains open and is functioning remotely at this time. Anyone impacted by sexual harassment is encouraged to contact the Title IX office to make a report at: TitleIX.gwu.edu. Supportive measures, investigations and all other services will be conducted virtually to assure that any sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, stalking, retaliation, or other sexually discriminatory behaviors are addressed promptly.