Obama era regulations, which increased protections for campus sexual assault survivors, are in the process of being removed. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced it intends to overhaul federal Title IX guidelines regarding how schools should respond to sexual violence.
According to the department’s announcement, a public comment period will precede any new rules. For now, the University of Wyoming — along with schools nationwide — has received interim guidelines that already lay out several major shifts in schools’ responsibilities concerning complaints of sexual violence.
There is no longer a fixed time frame for Title IX investigations. Previously it was set at 60 days. Schools can now implement a higher standard of evidence than what is currently used in student misconduct proceedings, which will likely make sexual violence harder to prove. Advocates say these changes may discourage even more victims from coming forward. National statistics show one in five female undergraduates have experienced some kind of sexual assault, but that only one in ten victims report.
Jim Osborn is the Title IX coordinator at the University of Wyoming. He said the federal guidelines establish the bare minimum.
“You know the bottom line is that the federal regulations provide a floor, not a ceiling,” said Osborn.
He said university officials are meeting to figure out next steps, but immediate changes are not required in response to the interim guidelines.
“If we see necessary changes in policy we move forward on those no matter what the feds are requiring,” said Osborn.
The University of Wyoming is currently under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights for a Title IX complaint.