Stanford has revised its Title IX process for adjudicating cases of prohibited sexual conduct in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations for colleges and universities, which must take effect today.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law also pertains to cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“The changes required by the federal government are sweeping, and we are obliged to comply. However, Stanford is taking steps beyond the scope of the regulations to ensure an appropriate response to all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence and to provide support for survivors,” said Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access.

Changes required by new law

The new regulations require substantial changes to the way schools respond to Title IX allegations. For instance, the federal government is now requiring a single process for all faculty, students and staff.

Cross-examination is a new component of the Department of Education’s regulations. Contested matters will be decided at a hearing, and each party’s advisor will have an opportunity to question the other party and any witnesses. Based on input from students reviewing the process, Stanford will offer parties an option to waive the live cross-examination, and instead have questions submitted in writing to the hearing officer.

According to the new law, informal resolutions such as mediation are allowed, except when a student brings a complaint against a faculty or staff member. For matters eligible for informal resolution, Stanford will be exploring ways to include restorative justice practices as an option.

The new regulations narrow the scope of complaints that colleges are required to investigate. For example, according to the federal law, Title IX covers only sexual harassment that meets its new definition: “unwelcome conduct” that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to education.”

Stanford’s sexual harassment and sexual assault policy will go beyond Title IX regulations. “As an educational institution we will continue to address prohibited sexual behavior that falls outside of Title IX with a trauma-informed approach,” Schoenthaler said.

Stanford’s response

Following the issuance of the new regulations by the Department of Education in May 2020, a drafting committee was formed to put together a proposal for how Stanford would implement the new regulations. Input on Stanford’s new Title IX process was provided by the Faculty Advisory Board and the ASSU Student Advisory Board on Sexual Assault. There was also an opportunity for community feedback on the draft proposal.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who took the time to comment on the draft. Many excellent changes were made as a result of the feedback,” Schoenthaler said.

After the comment period ended, Stanford amended some of its proposed Title IX processes and policies. Most significantly, Stanford increased students’ access to attorneys to assist students through an investigation and an informal resolution.

Another important aspect of Stanford’s new Title IX process is that independent judges without a Stanford affiliation will review and decide cases, instead of a panel.

Many of Stanford’s existing principles will continue in the Title IX procedure. Stanford continues to require that affirmative consent is required for all sexual activity, and the procedure continues to apply to both completed acts as well as attempted acts.

“We will also continue to bolster our educational programs and raise awareness of the university’s many resources for support,” said Schoenthaler.

The week of August 17, Stanford plans to provide more information to the community about the Title IX procedure, including information about comments received on the draft procedure and the university’s response.

For more information, visit the Institutional Equity & Access website.