On May 15, 2020, under the Trump administration, the U.S. The Department of Education established new regulations under Title IX mandating how colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct cases. Almost a year later, on March 8, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order revising this legislation. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education.
This piece aims to explore how Miami University addresses campus sexual assault and how Biden’s executive order affects sexual misconduct cases at universities moving forward.
The individuals featured within the story are Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh, the new Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator since Dec. 2020, Detective Nicole Roberts with the Miami University Police Department, Neal Schuett, business legal studies professor and attorney at Miami University, and Lauren Doepke, our own Executive Advocacy Director for Sexual Assault Survivor Support (SASS) at Miami University.
On March 8, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at revising Title IX. Biden’s executive order criticizes regulations made in May 2020 during the Trump administration.
Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh, the new Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at Miami University, comments on how these changes affect Title IX hearings:
“There are several big changes,” Lewis-Flenaugh explains. “There has been a narrowing of the definition of sexual harassment, an inclusion of the role of advisors, and less of a role for a support person in Title IX hearings.” Lewis-Flenaugh speaks on what previous presidential administrations have done with Title IX.
During the Obama era, the Dear Colleague Letter came out, which provided guidance on ways to best protect students, Lewis-Flenaugh explained. “However, when the Trump era came, it moved from guidance to regulation, regulation is law. That changed certain aspects of the process, making it feel more court-like and judicial,” said Lewis-Flenaugh.
Title IX procedures are relatively new. When the first regulations were established in May 2020, colleges and universities had about three months to establish processes, which is a short period of time, according to Lewis-Flenaugh. Lewis-Flenaugh explained the new processes for Title IX hearings at Miami University.
“There is cross-examination now. Support roles are not permitted in the hearing, however students bringing forth complaints are assigned an advisor that acts as legal counsel, who then questions the complainant. It reminds you of any court show seen on television,” said Lewis-Flenaugh.
She states that they are still in the midst of understanding and experiencing what these new processes look and feel like. “If people feel like they don’t understand a process, they often don’t want to enter a process,” said Lewis-Flenaugh.
Neal Schuett, visiting business legal studies professor and attorney, attests to the what the trial-like process of Title IX entails:
“Before, the respondent and complainant talked to each other. Attorneys or advisors weren’t allowed to be buffers like in court,” said Schuett. He sees this change as a benefit to both parties as these situations are highly volatile and emotional.
Schuett also comments on the experience of the trial-like hearing, and how it differs from a real court setting. “It’s like a trial without the protections of a trial. This allows a lot more onto the record that is emotional and less fact-based. It’s not uncommon that both sides will call in a whole bunch of their friends to talk about things that they only heard from the complainant or respondent in these hearings. It’s not new information, just emotionally charged information from both sides, which you wouldn’t have in court,” said Schuett. He also comments that these new regulations use a lot of legal jargon without legal training.
Lauren Doepke, our very own Executive Advocacy Director at Sexual Assault Suvivor Support (SASS) at Miami University, explains misfalls of new Title IX procedures for students:
“It tries to equalizes any sort of bias between respondents and complainants
where there’s already a disconnect because survivors are at a disadvantage compared to the people who have perpetrated the act,” says Doepke. She has reviewed the 9-page summary on Title IX, but notes the actual document is over 2,000 pages long.
“Imagine being the Deputy Coordinator, the Dean of Students, and general counsel who actually had to go through and read that document. They only had between May of 2020 and August of 2020 to come up with a compliant plan to implement. Inherently, there is going to be error and risk involved because they’re not giving people enough time to adequately accommodate for the new rules,” says Doepke. Doepke thinks as a result of limited time, Title IX at Miami University is not as effective as it could be.
“They are effective for doing what they are intended to do, hear a case and get some sort of result from it. But the problem is we’re seeing a lot of people are not happy with that result,” said Doepke.
Doepke introduced the informal resolution in progress of implementation under Title IX. The informal resolution changes the options of Title IX from disciplinary actions like arrests and sanctions to a structure of restorative justice.
“Generally, a lot of people who go through the Title IX disciplinary process or criminal process, don’t always get an apology because often as soon as you bring discipline into it, people get defensive, which is human nature,” said Doepke. With restorative justice, Doepke’s hope is that in appropriate cases, people will be able to get that apology.
“That’s what restorative justice is really there to do. It’s to help the survivor with their healing process,” states Doepke.
Doepke hopes that Biden revokes the final rule, but doubts it will happen realistically.
Nicole Roberts, detective for Miami University Police Department (MUPD), explains the relationship between the Title IX office and MUPD:
“Anything Title IX receives that is criminal in nature is automatically turned over to us,” said Roberts. She explains that although the Title IX office and MUPD are separate entities, they share information with one another.
“Most of the things shared with us from Title IX is sexual assault. Occasionally we get regular assault, harassment, or other things of that nature,” said Roberts. Roberts stated that even with new Title IX regulations, nothing has changed with the processes of MUPD.
Campus sexual assault is not a new issue, whether it be here at Miami or at other colleges and universities. The informal resolution has not been implemented yet as of today, March 18, 2021. Miami University’s Commitment to Prevention can be found on their website under Campus Safety, along with information about Title IX and resources available.
Miami University Title IX Office
104 Warfield Hall
Deputy Coordinator: Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh
Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh: TitleIX@MiamiOH.edu
Nicole Roberts: email@example.com
Neal Schuett: (513) 524-5000; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Doepke: 513-437-6972