University Revises Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy in Compliance With New Title IX Regulations

The University is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, and will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. This commitment is codified in Drexel’s OED-3: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy, which was recently renamed and revised to comply with federal regulatory changes, and to ensure that we are providing a safe and inclusive campus, learning and working environment for all members of our community, regardless of sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

The policy changes reflect the U.S. Department of Education’s comprehensive set of new regulations governing how colleges and universities must respond to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct under Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or gender in any federally funded education program or activity. The Department of Education announced these substantial and far-reaching changes on May 6, 2020, and mandated that institutions make necessary adjustments and implement revised policies and procedures to address them by or before Aug. 14, 2020.

Summary of Policy Changes

We encourage all community members to review and familiarize themselves with the revised policy, which is posted on the Office of Equality and Diversity website. Key takeaways include:

  • The University will continue to review, respond to, and, where appropriate, investigate and adjudicate reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct impacting members of the University community, even where those reports may involve allegations of misconduct that may fall outside of the narrow requirements prescribed by the new regulations.
  • The University will continue to apply a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in cases of alleged sexual harassment or sexual misconduct made against students, faculty or professional staff at the University.
  • In all instances, the University remains steadfastly committed to applying a process for addressing reports of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct that is fair to all parties, thorough and sensitive to the complexities of these issues in the university setting. Drexel will continue to devote time, staffing and other resources to ensure that individuals affected by a report of alleged sexual harassment or sexual misconduct will receive appropriate support through the University.
  • The Office of Equality and Diversity (OED) will continue to serve as the University’s central resource for addressing reports of alleged harassment and discrimination in all its forms, including those related to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

Additional changes driven by the new regulations and reflected in the updated OED-3 Policy include:

  • Renaming OED-3 as the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy to more accurately reflect the revised scope of the policy under the new regulations.
  • Changes to key definitions and terms as prescribed in the new regulations, including: specifying a new “actual notice” standard by which the University will be determined to have been put on notice of an allegation of conduct prohibited under the policy; inserting a revised definition of what constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX and OED-3; and clarifying the context and circumstances in which OED-3 will apply.
  • Providing updated language regarding the University’s provision of resources, support services, and emergency measures in relation to reports of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, in compliance with the new regulations.
  • Inserting detailed information regarding the processes through which the University is required, under the new regulations, to investigate, adjudicate, and/or otherwise resolve complaints of alleged sexual harassment or sexual misconduct made against students, faculty and professional staff.  Among the most noteworthy changes are processes for adjudication of complaints against students, faculty and professional staff students via live hearing, as well as the opportunity for cross-examination by advisors during live hearings involving students, faculty and professional staff.
  • Re-organization of the policy to pull more information into explanatory footnotes, or into an expanded set of Appendices that include: a glossary of key terms; examples of potential conduct prohibited under the policy; information regarding law enforcement, medical and other community resources available to survivors of sexual misconduct; and a detailed explanation of the concepts of violence, consent and incapacitation as they relate to conduct prohibited under OED-3.

Education and Feedback

Despite the accelerated timing mandated by the Department of Education and the significant work done to meet the Aug. 14 deadline, the University recognizes that the effects of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are far-reaching, long-lasting and corrosive to the University’s core values. For this reason, the University, under the leadership of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator Paul Apicella, will be coordinating a series of opportunities to inform its community members about the revised OED-3 Policy and to solicit feedback about the ways in which the new policy might intersect with the realities of campus life, including:

  • providing an opportunity for public review and feedback on the revised OED-3 and related issues;
  • live presentations about the revised policy with Q&As, open to University community members;
  • ongoing collaborations with student, faculty and professional staff groups to fine-tune our policies and processes and to reflect best practices and institutional values; and
  • on-demand trainings to review the revised OED-3, educate community members about reporting obligations and procedures, and inform about the resources, support services and procedural options available to community members in connection with reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

The University is appreciative of the feedback and engagement it has received thus far from students, faculty and other community members on these issues. We look forward to continuing to dialogue about the ways that we can prioritize providing a safe, inclusive environment for all while also meeting the demands of a shifting regulatory landscape.