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Emory implements new Title IX regulations regarding sexual misconduct

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Emory is implementing new federal Title IX regulations that took effect Aug. 14. The university will also continue to investigate conduct prohibited by Emory to maintain an environment free of unlawful harassment and discrimination, even if it falls outside the definition of sexual harassment under the new regulations. 

Emory University, along with colleges across the country, is implementing Title IX policies that are compliant with new federal regulations, which took effect Friday, Aug. 14.

In the new federal regulations, Title IX sexual harassment is defined as:

  • An employee conditioning an educational benefit or service upon a person’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct (often called quid pro quo harassment);
  • Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity; or
  • Sexual assault, as the Clery Act defines that crime in 34 CFR 668.46(a).

These federal regulations narrow for Title IX purposes the definition of sexual harassment.  Emory, however, will continue to address, under a separate conduct process, sexual misconduct that does not meet the new federal regulatory definition under Title IX.  Emory remains committed to maintaining an environment that is free of unlawful harassment and discrimination.

To that end, Emory’s new Sex and Gender-Based Harassment and Discrimination Policy addresses sexual harassment that falls under the definition contained in the new federal Title IX regulations as “Title IX Misconduct,” which will be channeled through a Title IX Misconduct process. The policy also addresses sexual misconduct that falls outside that definition but that is still prohibited by Emory, which will be reviewed and addressed through a “Prohibited Conduct” process. 

Emory has not significantly changed its guidance regarding what constitutes prohibited conduct. What has changed in light of the new federal requirements is the manner in which the university will address how allegations of prohibited conduct are handled.

Prohibited conduct includes several categories, such as non-consensual sexual intercourse, sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual exploitation and Title IX Misconduct. Title IX Misconduct is a subset of what is prohibited and must rise to a level of severity and pervasiveness that is strictly prohibited by federal law.

“If a conduct is prohibited by Emory but does not meet federal Title IX requirements, the university may still conduct a thorough investigation and individuals may still face disciplinary action,” says Yolanda Buckner, the university’s Title IX coordinator and special assistant to Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Buckner also notes that the new policy and adjudication process applies to students, faculty and staff as required by federal regulations (previously, Emory had a separate process for faculty and staff).

“Emory will not ignore any complaints of sexual misconduct,” Buckner says. “All complaints will be reviewed and appropriate actions will be taken if an incident constitutes a prohibited conduct.”

A comprehensive approach

Emory’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion includes the Department of Title IX and the Department of Equity and Inclusion.

The Title IX department will review and address all Title IX Misconduct involving students, faculty and staff.  If conduct falls outside of Title IX Misconduct and involves a student, the department will review and address the matter under its Prohibited Conduct process. 

If a matter involves a faculty or staff member and the matter falls outside of Title IX Misconduct, the Department of Equity and Inclusion will promptly review and address the matter pursuant to the university’s Equal Opportunity Discriminatory Harassment Policy. Both procedures are part of Emory’s comprehensive, university-wide approach to address and reduce incidents of sexual misconduct.

“Emory is committed to ensuring all members of our community feel safe, secure and respected,” Buckner says. “Emory does not tolerate sexual misconduct or sexual violence, and we will take prompt and equitable action in accordance with the university’s comprehensive approach when these incidents occur.”

Under the new federal regulations, the university is required to provide a comprehensive training session on the new policy with all members of the community who may be involved in the Title IX process by Aug. 14. Accordingly, the Department of Title IX held a mandatory training on Aug. 13 for all community members involved in the Title IX adjudication process at Emory. The Title IX department will conduct community trainings on the new policy throughout the academic school year. Community members also will be able to request training for themselves.

The Department of Title IX provides the Emory campus with multiple resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The team works collaboratively with other units across campus including Campus Life, Human Resources, the Emory Police Department and the Offices of the Provost and President.

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