Sam Houston State University’s Title IX office informed faculty and students of their new policies and procedures through an annual email on Sept. 19, 2020. The Department of Education released these changes in early May, altering how the university defines Title IX cases. These recent changes are reflected in the Texas State University System Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, a list of thorough procedures that prohibits unlawful gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and other forms of sexual misconduct.
According to the email, these new regulations include altered language when defining sexual harassment, how the complainant/victim can decide how the university responds to sexual misconduct cases and increased protection for all parties involved in the grievance process.
The Department of Education narrowed sexual harassment’s definition, a change that Sam Houston State University’s Director of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator Jeanine Bias Nelson said makes a big difference.
“The definition means an incident has to occur that’s severe, pervasive and persistent,” Nelson said. “Which is a little bit different than the previous definition which stated severe, pervasive or persistent. That and/or really means a big difference.”
In terms of hearings, this updated policy mandates that all investigated incidents are determined via a live hearing rather than an individual reviewing the investigative file. In this live hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to cross examine one another through an advisor.
SHSU looks to enhance safety in the community by requiring both students and faculty to complete Title IX based trainings. Students must complete Campus Prevention Training prior to registration, while employees must complete a Gender-Based Misconduct Training within 30 days of employment.
“It’s a presentation that takes employees through not only the definitions of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, but because of state law, it also includes mandatory reporting procedures,” Nelson said. “Most everybody on campus, according to Texas regulations, are required to report any disclosure from a student or another employee if somebody discloses to them that they’ve been a victim of any sort of sexual misconduct that then has to be directly reported to myself.”
This implemented employee training extends to cover incident scenarios as well. Nelson said they’ve done training and programs with Residence Life, Athletics and ROTC to build multifaceted responses to dealing with different scenarios.
Even with these new implementations, Nelson said the university is still looking to maintain their own policies with assisting off campus incidences.
“The thing that a lot of people have become confused on though is because that’s just related to incidents that are now defined as Title IX,” Nelson said. “What the university and the entire Texas State University System did was make sure that we still define incidences that don’t occur on campus and don’t meet that Title IX definition where we can still address those behaviors as they occur within our university community.”
To report an incident or obtain additional resources, visit www.shsu.edu/titleix/.