Opinion: The Title IX changes at ABAC were long overdue

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Earlier this semester, ABAC faculty received an email regarding ABAC’s Title IX process. In this email, Chris Beckham, director of public relations at ABAC, outlined the changes that would be implemented going forward. The email, sent out on February 27, 2023, reads:

“Formal hearings for Title IX and related complaints will be adjudicated by a trained three-person panel as compared to our historical ‘single adjudicator model’ which typically was a Vice President. The hearing panel will be responsible for conducting the formal hearing, determining if a violation of policy occurred, and establishing appropriate corrective action, as needed.

“USG formal training of the hearing panel’s pool of members will occur in the next few weeks. Process details around the Hearing Panel including selection and guidelines will be developed by representatives from both Faculty Senate and Staff Council. Further, any employee appeals following Title IX formal hearings will be reviewed by a presidential designee, whereas appeals were historically reviewed by the President.

“For Title IX and related issues, the USG Board of Regents discretionary appeal process remains as the final internal USG appeal level.

“In conclusion, Title IX complainants and respondents may file an external complaint with the Federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.”

ABAC’s Title IX process has arguably needed refurbishment for quite some time. Only four months ago, The Stallion reported on ABAC’s flawed Title IX system; these changes offer a sigh of relief to any student or faculty member who may go through this process.

Prior to these updates, the hearing officer position — the figure who would hear and decide on Title IX cases — was held by the vice president of the school, and appeals would be made to the president. Now, these roles will be filled by others outside of the school’s immediate administration and instead by a three-person panel and a presidential appointee, respectively.

These changes undoubtedly decrease the potential for bias within Title IX hearings and decisions. While I cannot say so for ABAC in particular, schools across the U.S. often take the side of the respondent to avoid lawsuits, especially if the respondent is an employee seeking legal restitution for wrongful termination.

If the president and vice president had been able to maintain their positions within Title IX, potentially several more respondents may have gone back to work or class with little to no consequence, likely just for the sake of the school’s financial stability and overall reputation.

As an ABAC student who has been advocating for these exact changes for two years now, I am relieved at these updates to Title IX at ABAC, but I cannot help but wonder why this detailed email was only sent to faculty members and not to students as well. Students are just as involved in Title IX, so why not also inform them?

Both students and faculty going through the Title IX system deserve transparency when navigating this process, and including students in this email would allow students the opportunity to understand how the Title IX process works and what they need to know before committing to the process.

Nonetheless, change is finally coming to ABAC’s Title IX system. While these changes are arguably long overdue, both students and faculty can rest assured that ABAC is making strong efforts to protect anyone navigating this process.

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