Students concerned about new Title IX policy effective January 2020

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Photo Credit: Alekka Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Beginning Jan. 1, state law will require public and private colleges to enforce mandatory employee reporting of Title IX violations to the Title IX Office or employees will face criminal offenses and employment termination. 

The University began sending emails to students and employees Aug. 27 to address the passing of Senate Bill 212 during the 86th Texas Legislative Session. Title IX is the federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sex at any institutions that receive federal financial assistance. 

LaToya Smith, interim Title IX coordinator and senior associate athletics director for student services, said it is the University’s responsibility to clarify what this law will mean for the UT community as information for implementation and employee compliance training is released by the UT System and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The University’s new Title IX coordinator will take office Sept. 16, Smith said.

“The intent behind the law was to really put teeth behind reporting and … (to ensure) that the University was being transparent in reporting what was going on on their campus,” said Smith, who served as UT’s Title IX coordinator from 2015 to 2017. “If anything, it really will encourage the University to not only maintain but also step up resources and areas where students can go and get support and information.”

Current Title IX requirements include mandatory reporting by responsible employees, such as professors and resident assistants. This new law strengthens the consequences of not reporting Title IX violations by charging those who fail to report with a Class B misdemeanor and those who intentionally make false reports with a Class A or B misdemeanor, plus employment termination. Both misdemeanors include thousands of dollars in fines and/or at least 180 days in jail. 

Delaney Davis, president of the sexual assault prevention student organization It’s on Us, said with the new law, she hopes the University will increase the number of confidential advocates in the Title IX Office, who students can speak with if they do not want to undergo an investigation. 

“If a sexual assault is reported through mandatory reporting, that means a survivor didn’t go themselves,” said Davis, a government and Spanish junior. “Not every single person who is sexually assaulted may necessarily want to go through the investigation process for a variety of reasons because it can be very mentally taxing.”

Isabella Lotrean, an international relations and global studies sophomore, said she agrees with the intention behind the law, but she is skeptical of how it may be enforced with students. 

“It’s good they’re trying to have more reporting and responsibility on campus … but ultimately, (it) can infringe on someone’s right to say, ‘I don’t want to talk about this,’” Lotrean said.

Davis said she hopes the University will continue to educate students about how the law will be implemented. She said she worries students may unknowingly trigger an investigation they do not want to be involved in by saying something about a Title IX violation to a University employee.

“At the end of the day, UT can’t change a law passed by the legislature,” Davis said. “I don’t blame UT for wanting to comply with this, but I do think we do have some power to make responses so that a bunch of students aren’t thrown into a process they may not want to participate in.”