The Office of Community Standards (OCS), formerly known as OESCR, is drafting guidelines for sanctions in Title IX cases — something the university hasn’t had before — to provide a consistent way to deal with these incidents.
Most other policy violations, such as complicity and property damage, have sanctioned guidelines, meaning a suggested way of dealing with the issue.
The guidelines will codify some practices already in place. However, punishments are determined on a case by case basis, and the guidelines only provide a starting point and recommended path of action for the hearing panels. If the panel chooses to not follow the sanction guidelines, they would have to justify that decision in their final report.
Ann James, director of the OSC, has been charged with drafting guidelines for all areas of conduct, including sexual assault, by Dean of Students Kimberly Moore.
The guidelines will ensure all Title IX hearings are approached in a similar manner, so students know what to expect.
“[It’s] to make sure our panels have guidelines [so] that if a student is held responsible based on the preponderance of the evidence then [the panel will hand down] what is an appropriate outcome given the facts of that particular case,” Moore said.
These guidelines are something many members of the hearing panels want, James said.
“The panel members that I’ve talked to about this are like, ‘yes, please give me this,’ because it takes a lot off of them,” James said. “Right now, they’re kind of starting with a blank page as far as sanctions are concerned.”
At the beginning of the semester, James trained the hearing panelists and gave them an idea of appropriate sanctions for Title XI hearings, saying to start with nothing less than suspension. The guidelines are, therefore, not vastly different from what they have previously done, but merely make it more official.
James said she does not have any specific ideas about what the guidelines will entail as of Friday, Nov. 9, but she will base them off resources from the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA).
James wrote a draft of the guidelines and is working to finalize it by the end of the week. The goal was to have the new guidelines in place before the next Title IX hearing, which will occur after Thanksgiving break.
Although there was a sense of urgency to finish the guidelines in time, James and her team put a lot of effort into making sure they are written properly. She has been researching policies at other institutions and working on these guidelines since the beginning of the fall semester.
Once James finished the guidelines, they were sent to Moore for final approval. Since this is not a policy change, it will not have to go through the formal approval process and will not change the student code of conduct.
While the guidelines do not fall under the student code of conduct, James said she is in the process of reviewing it in its entirety to eventually make amendments to it. The guidelines are just the first step toward that goal.
“Anything we can do on our end to create the most fair and supportive process we can is what I want to do, what we all in this office want to do,” James said.
The guidelines, once finalized, will be followed for the remainder of the semester and then reevaluated at the beginning of next semester.