Who/What is Dear UNL?
Dear UNL is a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff members from the UNL community seeking systemic and cultural reform of the Title IX Office at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
How did Dear UNL form?
Members of this group are active across a number of social justice groups and organizations in the UNL community and beyond. We met in educational and political contexts through a shared belief of bettering society, specifically reforming the TItle IX process at UNL. Historically survivors of violence tend to come together to use a collective and impactful voice, as seen with survivors coming forward through the national Me Too movement.
What does Dear UNL want to see changed within UNL’s Title IX Office?
Currently, the UNL Title IX office is operating as a noncompliant entity which leads to harmful social outcomes and a culture of victim-blaming. We want to hold the UNL Title IX office to the highest standard of compliance so the institution can truly fulfill its objective of creating a safe campus environment by empowering survivors and ending sexual and dating violence in schools. We value Title IX's potential to protect civil liberties and envision a world where members of the UNL community can pursue opportunities free from violence and harassment.
We prepared a list of demands to the University of Nebraska available for public review here.
How can I help?
We are so thankful for the many forms of support from our friends, family, and community. If you would like to receive updates about the Dear UNL movement, follow our Facebook page.
You can also sign and share this petition detailing our purpose and demands to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
No part of this movement would be possible without the voices of 21 activists; make yours heard by writing to Chancellor Ronnie Green and the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
Send us an email if you want to show your support with a Dear UNL sticker!
What is Title IX?
Title IX is designed to guarantee protections to all people of federally-funded educational institutions from sex discrimination, including sexual violence. It specifically sets a precendent for protection in the instance of sexual assault and delivers violations of its guidelines in the form of a range of sanctions including expulsion. Failure to comply results in a withholding of federal funds, however, no institution has ever lost funding despite most operating as non-compliant entities.Victims who have reported sexual assault to non-compliant institutions have lost their most precious commodities: time and emotional and physical well-being.
Without a doubt, the most prominent criticism of Title IX law is its lack of clarity and direction. These claims are most often espoused by institution administrators responsible for developing campus-wide protections. We believe Title IX’s message is extremely clear: the civil rights of all individuals are protected under this law in addition to serving as a guiding source for universities to hold perpetrators of violence accountable. We seek to uphold these principles and will criticize institutions and individuals who fail to fulfill this law.
Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Title IX Investigations your institution could be committing.
Title IX defined by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln:
Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities in federally funded schools. Title IX protects students, employees, applicants for admission and employment, and other persons from all forms of sex discrimination, including discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity. All students, faculty and staff at UNL are protected by Title IX (regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, full or part-time status, disability, race or national origin) in all aspects of UNL’s educational programs and activities. All forms of sexual harassment, including but not limited to, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault are violations of Title IX and prohibited by UNL.
Specifically, Title IX states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Title IX defined by Know Your IX:
Title IX is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law stating: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." It’s our only mechanism for filing civil complaints about sexual and interpersonal violence at the university.
In addition, Title IX prohibits educational institutions that receive any form of federal financial assistance from discrimination on the basis of sex in admissions, financial aid, recreational services, health services, college residential life programs, counseling services, classroom assignments, grading, employment, and recruitment. Title IX has been instrumental in the advancement of women in education, especially in the realm of financial aid and athletics. The requirement for equality in athletics, including athletic scholarships, has given rise to a massive increase in both the number of women athletes recruited and the amount of financial aid offered to them. Instead of decreasing the amount of aid offered to men,universities have offered additional spots and funds to women to match the preexisting quantities offered to men.
What does the Title IX Office at UNL do?
The Title IX Office at UNL is not a one-stop shop. A compliant Title IX Office is designed to work in tandem with and uphold the findings of external entities using a preponderance of evidence standard, such as advocacy and law enforcement agencies. The Title IX Office at UNL seeks to provide equal treatment and process to all parties, but it is evident their methods result in confusion, unequal treatment of the respondent and reportee, and an unequal distribution of stress, most often falling entirely on the survivor, a direct violation of Title IX law.
Since July 2018, UNL has privatized and limited the advocacy and reporting services available to roughly 30,000 students, staff, and faculty members. While the reasoning for this action remains unclear, UNL spokespeople claim this decision is compliant with current federal Title IX guidelines.
The Title IX Office at UNL is currently operating with one Title IX Coordinator and two full-time victim advocates. The office operates Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm which contrasts with a decade-long contract with an independent community organization and its 16 trained staff who specialize in 24/7 emergency, advocacy, educational, and legal services.
What are a Title IX Coordinator’s responsibilities?
A Title IX coordinator’s core responsibilities include overseeing the school’s response to Title IX reports and complaints and identifying and addressing any patterns or systemic problems revealed by such reports and complaints. This means that the Title IX coordinator must have knowledge of the requirements of Title IX, of the school’s own policies and procedures on sex discrimination, and of all complaints raising Title IX issues throughout the school.
The school should ensure that the Title IX coordinator is given the training, authority, and visibility necessary to fulfill these responsibilities. Because the Title IX coordinator must have knowledge of all Title IX reports and complaints at the school, this individual (when properly trained) is generally in the best position to evaluate a student’s request for confidentiality in the context of the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. A school may determine, however, that another individual should perform this role. If a school relies in part on its disciplinary procedures to meet its Title IX obligations, the Title IX coordinator should review the disciplinary procedures to ensure that the procedures comply with the prompt and equitable requirements of Title IX.
In addition to these core responsibilities, a school may decide to give its Title IX coordinator additional responsibilities, such as: providing training to students, faculty, and staff on Title IX issues; conducting Title IX investigations, including investigating facts relevant to a complaint, and determining appropriate sanctions against the perpetrator and remedies for the complainant; determining appropriate interim measures for a complainant upon learning of a report or complaint of sexual violence; and ensuring that appropriate policies and procedures are in place for working with local law enforcement and coordinating services with local victim advocacy organizations and service providers, including rape crisis centers. A school must ensure that its Title IX coordinator is appropriately trained in all areas over which he or she has responsibility. The Title IX coordinator or designee should also be available to meet with students as needed. If a school designates more than one Title IX coordinator, the school’s notice of nondiscrimination and Title IX grievance procedures should describe each coordinator’s responsibilities, and one coordinator should be designated as having ultimate oversight responsibility
As defined by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln:
The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for the following duties and activities:
Ensuring UNL complies with Title IX and other related laws.
Creation and application of university policies and procedures related to Title IX
Coordination of implementation and administration of complaint procedures and investigations.
Working to create a safe learning and working campus environment.
Dear UNL demands the employment of a Title IX coordinator trained in trauma-informed, bias-free communication who demonstrates professionalism in all interactions, judgment, and decision-making and refrains from lecturing or attempting to play a developmental role in the process or outcome.
Who is the current Title IX Coordinator at UNL?
Megan Counley can be reached at (402) 472-3417. Her address is 128 Canfield Administration Building, Lincoln, NE 68588-0437.
Dear UNL has demanded the formation of an oversight committee to create a system of checks and balances and establish accountability in decision-making.
What is UNL’s current Sexual Misconduct Policy?
From the University of Nebraska - Lincoln:
The Student Code shall apply to conduct that occurs:
On University premises, including all University of Nebraska locations, physical campuses and any University affiliated programs located in other states or countries.
Off University premises, if the conduct is determined by the Dean of Students to adversely affect the University community, its members, its reputation or the pursuit of its objectives.
The Student Code applies to student conduct which occurs from the time of enrollment through the actual awarding of a degree, even if the conduct occurs prior to the start of classes or is discovered after a degree is awarded.
All allegation of sexual misconduct, including, sexual assault, sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking are investigated and addressed following the procedures set forth in the “University of Nebraska-Lincoln Response to Allegations of Student Sexual Conduct,” adopted pursuant to Board of Regents Policy 5.3.3, attached to this Student Code as Appendix “A,” or as Appendix “A” may be hereafter amended.
As part of our demands to the University of Nebraska, Dear UNL has requested for the administration to directly define actionable sanctions in clear, sequential order.
Why is UNL responsible for handling sexual assault cases? Shouldn’t law enforcement handle that?
The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights recommends that a school work with its campus police, local law enforcement, and local prosecutor’s office to learn when the evidence gathering stage of the criminal investigation is complete.
A criminal investigation is intended to determine whether an individual violated criminal law; and, if at the conclusion of the investigation, the individual is tried and found guilty, the individual may be imprisoned or subject to criminal penalties.
By contrast, a Title IX investigation will never result in incarceration of an individual and, therefore, the same procedural protections and legal standards are not required. Further, while a criminal investigation is initiated at the discretion of law enforcement authorities, a Title IX investigation is not discretionary; a school has a duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably and to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, free from sexual harassment and sexual violence. Because the standards for pursuing and completing criminal investigations are different from those used for Title IX investigations, the termination of a criminal investigation without an arrest or conviction does not affect the school’s Title IX obligations. Of course, criminal investigations conducted by local or campus law enforcement may be useful for fact gathering if the criminal investigation occurs within the recommended timeframe for Title IX investigations; but, even if a criminal investigation is ongoing, a school must still conduct its own Title IX investigation. A school should notify complainants of the right to file a criminal complaint and should not dissuade a complainant from doing so either during or after the school’s internal Title IX investigation. Title IX does not require a school to report alleged incidents of sexual violence to law enforcement, but a school may have reporting obligations under state, local, or other federal laws.
A school should not wait for the conclusion of a criminal investigation or criminal proceeding to begin its own Title IX investigation. Although a school may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence, it is important for a school to understand that during this brief delay in the Title IX investigation, it must take interim measures to protect the complainant in the educational setting.
Having a clear purpose is necessary to establish guidelines, limitations, and expectations surrounding the localized Title IX process. Currently, UNL’s Title IX website states the office’s purpose is “dedicated to the prevention of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, and providing a safe campus for its employees and students. In order to be proactive in its efforts, UNL has established procedures and policies to investigate complaints and address identified concerns.” You can visit their website to learn more about the UNL Title IX office on this website, you will discover information about Title IX, available resources, and university policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct.
A central criticism from Dear UNL has been unclear, misleading information on UNL's Title IX website and administration interpretation.
What is the Clery Act?
The Clery Act is a federal law that requires colleges to report crimes that occur “on campus” and school safety policies. This information is available each year in an Annual Security Report (ASR), which can be found on your school’s website. The Clery Act also requires schools to send timely warnings to the school community when there are known risks to public safety on campus.
The Clery Act also contains the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which requires colleges to disclose educational programming, campus disciplinary process, and victim rights regarding sexual violence complaints.
Under the Clery Act, any student or employee who becomes a victim of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (whether on or off campus) has the right to receive written explanation of their rights and options.
The Clery Act also protects against retaliation by an institution, officer, employee, or agent of an institution for exercising their rights under the Act. Retaliation includes intimidation, threats, coercion, discrimination, or any other form of retaliation.
Every higher education institution that receives federal funding is subject to the requirements of the Clery Act as well as Title IX. The Clery Act requires institutions of higher education to provide current and prospective students and employees, the public, and the Department with crime statistics and information about campus crime prevention programs and policies. The Clery Act requirements apply to many crimes other than those addressed by Title IX. For those areas in which the Clery Act and Title IX both apply, the institution must comply with both laws.
Visit the US Department of Education's website for additional information about the Clery Act and its regulations.
The Title IX process is inherently confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Dear UNL has prepared and presented a list of demands to the University of Nebraska to improve accountability, transparency, staffing, survivor support, and training and ensure UNL's Title IX department functions without exploiting survivors of sexual misconduct.
We understand the overwhelming feeling of isolation and uncertainty following sexual assault and subsequently when considering reporting to law enforcement or your affiliated institution. We are with you and we want you to know, more than anything, that you have a community of supporters who never want you to feel alone in the choice you make. We grieve with you and we hope the following information and resources can help you heal however you feel is necessary. What happened is not your fault and you don’t deserve the burden of navigating the Title IX system alone. It is unfair for an institution to stress an individual with problems that require the work of a lawyer, investigator, and activist in order to remain and thrive as a successful member of this institution. No one deserves to be in this position.
You are not alone.
We hope the following list is useful in understanding Title IX and Clery Act rhetoric. Successful implementation of a functional, empowering Title IX process begins with clear interpretation of policy guidelines.
Upon a report of a Title IX concern, the University should work with the Complainant (reportee) to put interim measures in place to ensure a safe, hostile free environment for the student. Following an investigation and a determination that conduct prohibited by Title IX occurred, more permanent accommodations and safety measures may be implemented.
Accommodations and safety measures (including interim measures) could include:
No contact or stayaway letters
Limitation on extracurricular or athletic activities
Removal from University community
Other appropriate actions as necessary
The accommodations extend to housing, dining, work, and academic settings the reportee and respondent frequent.
Students who have a disability, including those who develop a disability as a result of experiencing sexual misconduct, may be entitled to additional services and supports as accommodations (e.g., the reasonable modification of policies, practices, or procedures or the provision of academic adjustments) under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Section 504 Regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 104, or in cases of public schools under Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and the Title II Regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, or in cases of private schools under Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq., and the Title III Regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
Dear UNL demands clearly defined in addition to an extension of supportive measures and accommodations to victims of sexual misconduct.
The Title IX advocate’s responsibility is to work collaboratively with the reporter/respondent and the Title IX Coordinator(s) to protect and advocate for survivors of sexual violence and gender-based violence. If need be, advocates will assist students and families in filing Title IX complaints to the proper authorities, attend meetings with families at their schools and connect them to invaluable community resources and services to address the aftermath of sexual and gender-based violence. If warranted, advocates will also refer families to further legal assistance.
Dear UNL demands an increase in training and support for current advocates.
Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance in and of themselves do not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
Annual Security Report
In addition to its warning requirements, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to provide an Annual Security Report detailing campus policies on the following topics:
How a school works to prevent crimes
How the school encourages reports of crime
Who should receive crime reports on campus
How a school issues a timely warning
What campus procedures are followed when a crime is reported
Whether campus security can arrest and initiate criminal investigation (or whether the report must go to the local police and which police would have jurisdiction)
How a victim can: preserve evidence; report a crime to campus officials, the police, or both; receive assistance from campus officials to report to police; decline to report to the police; report confidentially; receive accommodations upon request; and contact support services on or off campus
What remedies and accommodations may be available to victims
What the campus disciplinary process entails
What standard of evidence is used in campus disciplinary hearings
How the school monitors crime reports from student organizations off campus
Where local sex offender registry information can be obtained
Dear UNL is unable to find UNL’s warning requirements at this time.
Appeals Board (also referred to “University Appeals Board”)
The terms “Appeals Board” and “University Appeals Board” refer to that body of students and faculty selected pursuant to the provisions of Article IV, paragraph 11.1, which hears appeals of the decision made by the Conduct Board.
Campus Disciplinary Proceedings
Colleges and universities must have a policy on campus disciplinary proceedings (from investigation to the hearing to the final resolution) for dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Such campus disciplinary proceedings must:
Be prompt, fair and impartial
Be adjudicated by officials receiving annual training on: issues of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking; and conducting investigations and hearings that protect safety of victims and promotes accountability
Procedural rights for both victim and accused include:
Same opportunity to have others present as witnesses
Opportunity to be accompanied by an advisor of their choice
Receive simultaneous written notification of: delay and the reason for the delay; outcome of disciplinary hearing; opportunity to appeal the result; changes to results; results that are final; and reason for the results and sanction imposed
Multiple Dear UNL members receieved unequal treatment at this stage of the reportig process. Some survivors were provided this information while others were not. Title IX requires this information to be presented to all parties. Dear UNL demands a notarized copy of rights and changes in procedure as each case is investigated.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: “an act of demanding or asking especially with authority, usually something claimed as due or owed."
Both the Clery Act and Title IX guidance require school employees that address sexual violence complaints to have appropriate training. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) also recommends that professors, campus police, administrators, counselors, health center staff, cleaning staff, coaches, resident advisers and others likely to receive reports be trained on how to identify and report sexual harassment and violence.
According to the Department of Education, schools need to:
Ensure that responsible employees with the authority to address sexual violence know how to respond appropriately to reports of sexual violence; that other responsible employees know that they are obligated to report sexual violence to appropriate school officials; and that all other employees understand how to respond to reports of sexual violence.
Make sure professional counselors, pastoral counselors, and non-professional counselors or advocates understand the extent to which they may keep a report confidential.
Provide training to all employees likely to witness or receive reports of sexual violence, including teachers, professors, school law enforcement unit employees, school administrators, school counselors, general counsels, athletic coaches, health personnel, and resident advisors.
A school also should train responsible employees to inform students of:
The reporting obligations of responsible employees;
Students’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services; and
Their right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.
Equitable Complaint Process
Under Title IX, both the accuser and accused have equal rights, such as the right to:
Have an adviser of choice present during the process (this includes an attorney if allowed at all by schools)
Present evidence or have witnesses speak on their behalf
Have timely access to information that will be used at the hearing
Be present at pre-hearing meetings that provide an opportunity to present their testimony
Receive the final hearing decision in writing at the same time as the other party without being required to sign a non-disclosure agreement
Have the right to appeal a final decision (The 2017 Interim Guidance states that a school may choose to allow appeals solely by the responding party or by both parties. Learn more.)
In addition, since Title IX is a federal civil right, the appropriate standard of evidence is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard of evidence means that a hearing must determine whether a complaint of sex discrimination is “more likely than not” to have occurred or 51% likely to have occurred. This standard applies for all complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and violence, because Title IX outlines standards for school disciplinary processes — not criminal complaints, which require the highest standard of evidence, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The 2017 Interim Guidance allows schools to use the “clear and convincing” evidence standard, but only if all other forms of campus misconduct investigations utilize this standard.
A “grievance procedure” outlines the complaint, investigation, and disciplinary process for addressing sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence occurring within educational programs. This process should address discrimination perpetrated by students, employees, or third parties. Additionally, school security and/or law enforcement personnel must notify victims of their rights to use the school’s grievance procedure in addition to being able to file a criminal complaint. This grievance procedure requires the school’s process be “prompt and equitable,” meaning it must be a timely response to discrimination and provide both parties equivalent rights during the disciplinary process rather than having one-sided due process. For example, if the accused student is given a right to have an attorney present, so may the accusing student.
Regardless of a victim’s choice to report to the police, a victim may use a school’s grievance procedure to address sexual harassment or sexual violence or merely seek accommodations. When reasonable, schools must accommodate a victim on campus to remedy a hostile environment on a school’s campus. This means schools may change academic or extracurricular schedules to prevent an ongoing hostile education environment or put in place safety measures, such as a no-contact directive or facilitate a student obtaining a restraining order. The burden of accommodations or safety measures should not be solely placed on the victim, as this may be seen as a violation of Title IX."
Every member of the UNL community is entitled to these standards. UNL's grievance procedure does not address the scope of sexual misconduct, but UNL's Response to Student Sexual Misconduct states sexual misconduct is conduct in violation of University policy and state and federal law that the University will take action to eliminate, prevent, and redress once the University has notice that sexual misconduct has occurred.
Addressing a hostile environment means remedying a current situation, addressing its effects, and preventing its recurrence in the future created by sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. This must be school-wide.
As discussed more fully in OCR’s 2001 Guidance, OCR considers a variety of related factors to determine if a hostile environment has been created; and also considers the conduct in question from both a subjective and an objective perspective. Specifically, OCR’s standards require that the conduct be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person in the alleged victim’s position, considering all the circumstances. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment, particularly if the conduct is physical. Indeed, a single or isolated incident of sexual violence may create a hostile environment.
Implicit Bias Training
Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.
Extensive research has documented the disturbing effects of implicit racial biases in a variety of realms ranging from classrooms to courtrooms to hospitals.
Equality, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “the quality or state of being equal.”
Equity, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “justice according to natural law or right, specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism.”
The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a Q & A document to guide recipients and institutions with information to assist in meeting Title IX obligations.
The specific steps in a school’s Title IX investigation will vary depending on the nature of the allegation, the age of the student or students involved, the size and administrative structure of the school, state or local legal requirements (including mandatory reporting requirements for schools working with minors), and what it has learned from past experiences. For the purposes of this document, the term “investigation” refers to the process the school uses to resolve sexual violence complaints. This includes the fact-finding investigation and any hearing and decision-making process the school uses to determine: (1) whether or not the conduct occurred; and, (2) if the conduct occurred, what actions the school will take to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence, which may include imposing sanctions on the perpetrator and providing remedies for the complainant and broader student population. In all cases, a school’s Title IX investigation must be adequate, reliable, impartial, and prompt and include the opportunity for both parties to present witnesses and other evidence. The investigation may include a hearing to determine whether the conduct occurred, but Title IX does not necessarily require a hearing.
Furthermore, neither Title IX nor the DCL specifies who should conduct the investigation. It could be the Title IX coordinator, provided there are no conflicts of interest, but it does not have to be. All persons involved in conducting a school’s Title IX investigations must have training or experience in handling complaints of sexual violence and in the school’s grievance procedures.
When investigating an incident of alleged sexual violence for Title IX purposes, to the extent possible, a school should coordinate with any other ongoing school or criminal investigations of the incident and establish appropriate fact-finding roles for each investigator. A school should also consider whether information can be shared among the investigators so that complainants are not unnecessarily required to give multiple statements about a traumatic event. If the investigation includes forensic evidence, it may be helpful for a school to consult with local or campus law enforcement or a forensic expert to ensure that the evidence is correctly interpreted by school officials.
If a school uses its student disciplinary procedures to meet its Title IX obligation to resolve complaints of sexual violence promptly and equitably, it should recognize that imposing sanctions against the perpetrator, without additional remedies, likely will not be sufficient to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent recurrence as required by Title IX. If a school typically processes complaints of sexual violence through its disciplinary process and that process, including any investigation and hearing, meets the Title IX requirements discussed above and enables the school to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence, then the school may use that process to satisfy its Title IX obligations and does not need to conduct a separate Title IX investigation.
The Title IX coordinator should review the disciplinary process to ensure that it: (1) complies with the prompt and equitable requirements of Title IX; (2) allows for appropriate interim measures to be taken to protect the complainant during the process; and (3) provides for remedies to the complainant and school community where appropriate.
The investigation may include, but is not limited to, conducting interviews of the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, and any witnesses; reviewing law enforcement investigation documents, if applicable; reviewing student and personnel files; and gathering and examining other relevant documents or evidence. While a school has flexibility in how it structures the investigative process, for Title IX purposes, a school must give the complainant any rights that it gives to the alleged perpetrator. A balanced and fair process that provides the same opportunities to both parties will lead to sound and supportable decisions.
Specifically: Throughout the investigation, the parties must have an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence. The school must use a preponderance-of-the-evidence (i.e., more likely than not) standard in any Title IX proceedings, including any fact-finding and hearings.
If the school permits one party to have lawyers or other advisors at any stage of the proceedings, it must do so equally for both parties. Any school-imposed restrictions on the ability of lawyers or other advisors to speak or otherwise participate in the proceedings must also apply equally.
If the school permits one party to submit third-party expert testimony, it must do so equally for both parties. If the school provides for an appeal, it must do so equally for both parties. Both parties must be notified, in writing, of the outcome of both the complaint and any appeal.
Policies on Prevention
Colleges and universities must have a policy in their Annual Security Report about primary education and awareness programs for incoming students and employees, as well as ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns.
Program and campaign topics:
Prevention of crime
Campus security procedures and practices for personal safety
Prohibition of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking
Definitions of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking
Definition of consent for sexual activity within the local jurisdiction
Bystander intervention including safe and positive options to prevent harm or intervene when there is a risk
Risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior or potential attack
Information on: possible sanctions and protective measures; procedures for victims to follow to preserve evidence, report an offense to campus, report to police and receive assistance from the campus, decline to report to campus or police, and obtain protective or other orders regarding safety; campus disciplinary hearings; protecting the confidentiality of victims; available resources for health, legal assistance, mental health, or advocacy; and options for academic, living, transportation, and working accommodations
Preponderance of Evidence Standard
Title IX requires that schools use a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof in sexual harassment cases (i.e., it is “more likely than not” that the respondent committed sexual harassment or violence). While the Department of Education explicitly clarified that preponderance was the appropriate standard for Title IX procedures in 2011, courts have long affirmed that it is the appropriate standard by which to adjudicate cases under civil rights laws, including Title IX, Title VI, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Beyond civil rights litigation, preponderance of the evidence is the standard employed in most civil actions and the evidentiary standard that equitably balances the educational interests of both a complainant and a respondent. Additionally, schools regularly use this standard in disciplining students for other criminal or harassing code of conduct violations, including physical assault, burglary, hazing, and racial harassment.
Schools are required to be prompt when receiving a complaint of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence in order to remedy any hostile educational environment created by such behaviors. ED has not provided details on the length of time they consider to be “prompt,” but will evaluate a school’s effort to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner. If the length of your investigation has impeded on your access to an education and further created a hostile environment you may have grounds for an OCR complaint. A simultaneous police investigation does not remove a school’s responsibility to resolve a complaint under Title IX. While a school may delay its response to accommodate a police investigation, schools that delay the Title IX complaint process unreasonably are in violation of Title IX.
Reporting Process/Title IX Process
Victims of sexual misconduct are free to choose confidential or non-confidential reporting options in response to harmful behavior. We believe you and support your needs. Visit our "Need to Talk?" page for a list of confidential reporting resources.
Confidential reporting is made through an individual or organization who is not required to disclose reports of sexual misconduct to the University or law enforcement, such as an independent social service.
Non-confidential reporting is made through an individual or organization who is required to disclose reports of sexual misconduct to the University or law enforcement, such as a responsible employee as defined by the institution.
The Title IX Process begins with initial contact with the Title IX office.
Dear UNL demands the implementation of clearer literature, like this flowchart from the University of Michigan, so all parties have a clearer idea of the sequence of the reporting, investigation, and appeals timeline.
According to OCR’s 2001 Guidance, a responsible employee includes any employee: who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.
A school must make clear to all of its employees and students which staff members are responsible employees so that students can make informed decisions about whether to disclose information to those employees. A school must also inform all employees of their own reporting responsibilities and the importance of informing complainants of: the reporting obligations of responsible employees; complainants’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services; and complainants’ right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.
When a responsible employee knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence, OCR deems a school to have notice of the sexual violence. The school must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred, and, if the school determines that sexual violence created a hostile environment, the school must then take appropriate steps to address the situation. The school has this obligation regardless of whether the student, student’s parent, or a third party files a formal complaint.
UNL has defined "responsible employee," their identification, and duties on its website.
Dear UNL demands greater awareness from a student, staff, and faculty standpoint through increased visibility and training beyond its current required action form available to UNL members once a year.
As a federal civil right, Title IX automatically protects any individual who reports sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence against retaliation. This means employees and third party reports are protected along with reporting victims from any adverse consequence, harassment, intimidation, or discrimination that is causally related to reporting sex discrimination under Title IX. Schools must protect against other employees or students retaliating against a reporting party when it “knows or should know” about the retaliatory harassment or behavior.
Retaliation occurs when a school intimidates, threatens, coerces, or in any way discriminates against an individual who has brought a concern or reported a possible violation of a federal civil right. This includes formal or informal reports of a violation and reports regarding a violation of your own rights or the rights of others.
There are many different types of school conduct that could be considered retaliatory if they occur in response to your complaint or other activism. Some examples may include:
Disciplining you for “disruptive” protest activities or for naming your assailant
Failing to accommodate your housing or other academic needs
Forcing or pressuring you to take time off from school
Removing you from sports teams or other extracurricular activities
Pressuring you to stop talking to media
If a school discourages or threatens you about discussing complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence, this may be considered retaliation.
Safe Campus Climate
Campus climate is defined as the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential.
Respect, diversity and inclusion are crucial aspects of campus climate. Respect refers both to the experience of people on a campus as well as the quality and interactions between groups and people. According to the UC Regents' Study Group on University Diversity, diversity and inclusion efforts are not complete unless they also address climate [and] addressing campus climate is an important and necessary component in any comprehensive plan for diversity.
Experiences on campus influence individual and group learning and developmental outcomes, and hostile, discriminatory environments have a negative effect on learning and success.
Research shows that students, staff, faculty, and adminstrators will thrive in diverse, supportive environments, free of the negativity of discrimination, where inclusion and respect for diversity is the daily norm.
Currently, UNL is limited to a list of recommended sanctions with no clear guidelines on punitive decision-making.
If a student is found to have violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy, one or more of the following sanctions may be imposed:
A formal written warning in the student’s conduct file;
Probation for a designated period of time;
Loss of university privileges for a specified period of time;
Monetary or other compensation for loss, damage or injury;
Discretionary sanctions (such as community service, work assignments, educational requirements) which are appropriate under the circumstances;
Resident hall relocation;
Residence hall suspension;
Residence hall expulsion;
University expulsion; or
University ban and bar.
If an employee is found to have violated university sexual misconduct policy, the employee may be subject to one or more of the following sanctions:
Completion of mandatory conditions;
Suspension without pay;
Nonrenewal or non-reappointment;
Loss of rank or position;
Denial of salary increase;
Demotion in rank or pay;
Termination of employment;
Ban on university re-employment;
University ban and bar.
Dear UNL demands clear guidelines and reasoning for delivered sanctions.
Sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence and domestic violence.
The concept of systemic reform is central to defining change-seeking behaviors in institutional contexts and used to reference reforms that impact multiple levels of a system, such as the Title IX office, UNLPD, and advocacy, reforms that aspire to make changes throughout a defined system, such as campus-wide or statewide reforms, reforms that are intended to influence, in minor or significant ways, every member of an educational institution or system, or reforms that may vary widely in design and purpose, but ultimately reflect consistent educational principles with the purpose of achieving common objectives.
Transformative Justice is a process where all individuals affected by an injustice are given the opportunity to address and repair the harm. Those affected consider and recount how an act has affected them and what can be done to repair the harm. The perpetrator is then held accountable to the individual by way of restitution. Title IX has the opportunity to create effective anti-carceral responses to serious harms if and when this potential is recognized by decision-makers.
Trauma-informed response means a response to dating/domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking that involves an understanding of the complexities of such matters through training centered on the neurobiological impact of trauma, the influence of societal myths and stereotypes surrounding the causes and impacts of trauma, understanding the behavior of perpetrators, and conducting an effective investigation on behalf of the reporting party who suffered the trauma.
Violence Prevention Training
Education and training for the prevention, identification, and reporting of sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, and sexual violence.
Available resources for the UNL community:
U N L
The University of Nebraska - Lincoln Office of Equity and Compliance and NU Board of Regents policies and definitions.
O C R
The US Department of Education Q & A, Dear Colleague Letter, and official Title IX and Clery Act Law.
Know Your IX
Simple interpretation of Title IX, Clery Act, and additional resources for survivors of gender-based violence.