Faculty Council proposes reforms to Title IX procedures
The changes would impact the role of student equity panels and removal of faculty tenure in misconduct cases.
Dec. 10, 2014
The MU Faculty Council and Intercampus Faculty Council are working to reform policies that determine how the university handles violations of Title IX.
The IFC represents faculty concerns from the four UM System campuses to system President Tim Wolfe, while the MU Faculty Council represents faculty concerns from MU to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and the provost.
Rethinking student conduct
Dennis Miller, chair of the IFC for this academic year, said an IFC committee has been working to make changes to how Title IX cases are processed by the university.
Miller, who is leading the committee, said one primary focus is the role of student equity panels in Title IX cases.
According to chapter 200 of the UM System Collected Rules and Regulations, which deals with student conduct, the equity panel currently consists of three trained administrators of faculty from the larger group of Equity Resolution Hearing panelists.
This procedure was created when Wolfe issued Executive Order 41 on Sept. 22, which revised various procedures related to Title IX, specifically student equity panels.
According to the UM System website, collected rule 200.025 dictates the equity resolution process for resolving complaints of harassment, sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination against a student or student organization. Executive Order 41 states that panelists for discrimination claims should be trained administrators or staff appointed by the chancellor.
Miller said most faculty members believe the policy for equity panels is good but are concerned that it was developed without faculty input. He said the committee is critically evaluating the policy to provide feedback to Wolfe.
“Our goal is to make things better for students and make sure that the person (who) has experienced that sexual discrimination, harassment or misconduct is able to continue getting their education at Mizzou,” he said. “We also want to make sure the accused is treated fairly and that the process is fair, valid and the most equitable process we could have.”
Rethinking tenure protection
Another committee is examining how the university handles cases in which a faculty member is accused of sexual discrimination, misconduct or harassment.
Miller said a specific concern with faculty is the job protection of tenure and the process to remove tenure, which is slow and time-consuming.
“If a faculty member has committed an infraction, how can they be removed from their position if they have tenure?” he said. “We need to be sure we have a procedure in place so that tenure is not just stripped away on a whim, that there is a fair, equitable and reasonable process if tenure needs to be removed.”
Miller said Wolfe would like the faculty-related policy to be discussed at the Board of Curators meeting in February.
He said the proposed policy changes stem from increased national pressure for academic institutions to re-evaluate and reassess how they handle Title IX violations.
“The president as well as the faculty realize that we want to make sure our students are treated equitably,” he said. “We never want a student to not be able to get his or her education because of problems with sexual discrimination.”
In addition to policy reforms, MU has been searching for a new Title IX administrator since November. So far, two candidates, Joe Gilgour and Andrea Hayes, have visited campus for open forums.
MU spokesman Christian Basi said that the position will replace the interim Title IX coordinator Linda Bennett.
“This position is crucial in our ability to build on the leadership of Linda Bennett, MU’s Interim Title IX Coordinator, to ensure that our community responds to incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct in accordance with current best practices and guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education,” he said in an email.
At a Faculty Council meeting in November, Faculty Council member Tim Evans discussed how the change in titles might represent an evolution in MU’s handling of sexual assault cases.
“Linda Bennett is the Interim Title IX Coordinator. This will be the Title IX administrator,” he said at the meeting. “So there’s a subtle difference there in the hope that, with a permanent person, there will be an increasing of the staff and supervisorial roles.”
Miller said the Title IX coordinator plays a critical role in adjudicating accusations or complaints of Title IX violations.
“The Title IX coordinator has a tremendous amount of authority and responsibility,” he said. “The collected rules are the guidelines, but the one who enforces them and makes sure they’re applied correctly, equitably and fairly is the Title IX coordinator.”
Miller said he hopes the policies will improve the environment for students at MU.
“In the end, our goal and the president’s goal is to be sure that our students have the opportunity to get their education and to start their life off in an environment free of discrimination, harassment and misconduct,” he said. “We want to make things better for the students.”