Winter 2018 Newsletter
Western Remains Committed to Following Survivor-Centered Guidance from the Office for Civil Rights
In late September 2017, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) withdrew guidance documents (a 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” and a 2014 “Questions & Answers” document) issued by OCR during the prior administration and issued a new Dear Colleague Letter and Questions & Answers document pertaining to schools’ Title IX responsibilities to investigate reports of sexual misconduct.
Western’s commitment to preventing and responding to all forms of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, is in no way lessened by the revocation of prior OCR guidance. The university will continue to follow its applicable policies and procedures in investigating and resolving reports of sexual misconduct. For example:
- The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter required schools to use a preponderance of evidence standard when investigating complaints. The 2017 Dear Colleague Letter says that schools may use either a preponderance of evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard. Western continues to follow its Policy on Preventing and Responding to Sex Discrimination, Including Sexual Misconduct (POL-U1600.04), which provides that “the standard of evidence used by the Title IX Coordinator in investigating allegations of discrimination is a preponderance of evidence.”
- The 2017 Dear Colleague Letter allows schools to limit appeal rights to respondents. Western will continue to provide equal appeal rights for both complainants and respondents.
- The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter advised that “a typical investigation takes approximately 60 calendar days following receipt of the complaint,” and recognized that prompt investigations may take longer “depending on the complexity of the investigation.” The September 2017 Dear Colleague Letter removes the 60 day guidance and says “there is no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation.” Western continues to follow its Discrimination Complaint Procedure (PRO-U1600.02A) providing that investigations will typically be completed within 60 days after determining jurisdiction, and that this period may be extended when necessary.
- The 2014 Questions and Answers specifically addressed the rights of students with disabilities, international and undocumented students, and LGBT students to be free from sexual violence and the obligation of educational institutions to equitably respond to reports of sexual violence regardless of the student’s sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin or immigration status. Western continues to follow its Policy on Providing Equal Opportunity and Prohibiting Discrimination and Retaliation (POL-U1600.02), and will equitably investigate reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence brought by any student.
Students, faculty or staff with questions about Western’s policies and procedure for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct are encouraged to contact the Title IX Coordinator, Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, at (360) 650-3307 or Sue.Guenter-Schlesinger@wwu.edu.