Student groups demand communication from ASU on Title IX policy changes

Members of various student organizations came together to ask University officials why they didn't notify students of federal Title IX policy updates

Members of several student organizations attended a meeting with ASU representatives Wednesday night to discuss changes made to Title IX policies, as well as the University’s failure to properly ensure that students were aware of the changes.

The meeting, titled “Understanding the New Title 9: ASU's new policies on Sexual and Relationship violence," began with a presentation on the changes to Title IX made by the Department of Education in 2020

The Title IX changes bolster support for the accused in sexual misconduct cases and protect the schools from liability, creating a streamlined process for universities that would harm victims, advocates say.

The new changes require schools to hold live hearings at which accusers and accused parties can be cross examined, only investigate cases that are reported through a formal process and only be responsible for cases that happen on campus. 

The changes also include the addition of dating violence as a sexual misconduct category and mandating supportive measures, such as dorm reassignments or class reschedulings.

The ASU Women’s Coalition, Rainbow Coalition, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe, Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault, Movement for Violence Prevention and members from the Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention program all had representatives attending the event and asking questions.

During the event, students said the University had not done enough to notify students of the changes or the effects they would have on Title IX complaints further down the road. 

“ASU didn’t tell students about these changes," said Jasmine Lester, a 2011 ASU graduate and founding SDASA director. "They changed their policies in accordance with federal law, but they didn’t let anybody know about it.”

Michele Grab, assistant vice president for Student Services and a deputy Title IX coordinator for students, said the University did not send out a public announcement regarding the Title IX policy changes, but it instead reached out to student leaders to inform them of the modifications. 

Grab said although certain cases would no longer be considered Title IX complaints, they would still be considered Code of Conduct violations, which could lead to suspension or expulsion.

For example, any case of sexual misconduct that occurs off campus can no longer be filed as a Title IX complaint under the new policies. However, this event would constitute as a Code of Conduct violation and can be investigated as such.

“We have found that most of the time, people don’t look for this information until they need it, and then when they need it, it’s a one-on-one conversation that would hopefully help them through the process," Grab said. "But you know, (we) absolutely can talk about ways that we can do a better job at getting information out."

Undergraduate finance major Aparna Bezawada cited a University of California letter regarding Title IX changes as an example of how ASU could have handled the situation better. 

UC planned to follow their own Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy, instituting the DOE Grievance Process, “only when required,” allowing for limited use of disputed policies such as live hearings and questionings.

Bezawada said “University of California went above and beyond the Title IX regulations to set their own precedent for how they’re going to prosecute and handle sexual misconduct, assault or abuse,” arguing that this is something ASU should be doing as well. 

Lester left the meeting unsatisfied; she said she felt the new Title IX policies were not fully explained to students, and that ASU still didn't have a plan to properly communicate the changes, leaving students vulnerable if they ever found themselves in a position to file a Title IX complaint.

“ASU must do everything in its power to ensure students are aware of all policies and procedures they may be subjected to," Lester said. "This information must be easily accessed and easily understood, not buried in flow charts and paragraphs of policy."


Reach the reporter at rpriest2@asu.edu and follow @reaganspriest on Twitter.

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