Announcing Title IX Review Reports and Actions

MICHAEL K. YOUNG
PRESIDENT

August 20, 2018

Dear Aggie Community,

Today I am announcing eleven actions approved immediately, with an additional four areas of ongoing work related to enhancing the university’s Title IX investigation processes. We believe that these actions will not only contribute to continual improvement at our university in safety, processes, transparency, fairness and accountability, but will also set a new standard nationally for how Title IX investigations are managed.

In June, I ordered two reviews – one internal and one external – following concerns expressed about our Title IX processes. The charge of each these committees was to: review our procedures and processes with scrutiny; research examples of best practice; explore options, and offer recommendations that will help Texas A&M in our pursuit of excellence. We have made considerable strides in many areas in recent years in collaboration with the Office of Civil Rights, our community, national organizations such as ATIXA and other universities. We must always look to where we can continue to improve, to seek gaps to address. These reviews produced recommendations that will undoubtedly enhance the process.

The results of the reviews are below:

The Aggie community and I owe a debt of gratitude to members of the review committees, their chairpersons and to other participants who worked tirelessly and with great scrutiny over the last two months to develop a set of meaningful recommendations. Their work resulted in very specific recommendations for processes, expectations and understanding of rights, communication, sanctioning, and participation that will serve our university and perhaps other universities as well. We appreciate the incredible level of engagement from students, former students, staff, faculty, medical and other experts. I want to again thank the group of Texas A&M sexual assault survivors with whom I and other leadership met, which contributed to robust discussions in both the internal and external reviews. Provost Fierke and I look forward to the continued input of these members as well as other students, former students, faculty and staff who were unable to be here this summer to participate in the reviews.

Table 1 and Table 2 below provide the list of approved actions, followed by a brief description of each in the sections below.

Table 1: Approved Actions Today Resulting from Title IX Reviews

 Approved Actions
1 New approved sanctioning model for students
2 New guidelines for participation in representing the university in extracurricular activities
3 Dean of Students - not organization/team - decides interim restrictions
4 Decision for eligibility to return to participation determined at investigation finding, not upon return from suspension
5 Update communications to a central omnibus site, to and from which all resources flow
6 Enhance and empower Title IX office, redefining role, resources and authority
7 Hire four additional positions (investigators, Title IX Deputy Coordinator, case manager)
8 Assign one-on-one case managers to assist students throughout process
9 Expansion and distribution of counselors
10 Additional trainings and communications approved, such as: mandatory reporter; trauma-informed cases; rights and resources
11 Transcript notations in immediate effect

 

Table 2: Approved Work to Continue Regarding Title IX Processes

 Approved Recommendations for Continuing Improvement
1 Explore alternate resolution models including moving to centralized investigator model for student, faculty and staff cases.
2 Launch implementation task force to ensure that all agreed actions are conducted and to ensure continuous review of processes and practices.
3 Launch faculty/staff sanction task force to develop consistent sanctions.
4 Establish benchmarking considerations to ensure that Texas A&M is a national leader.

 

While the summary presentation and internal and external reports provide information, I would like to include here as well a brief description related to each approved action.

  1. New approved sanctioning model for students
    One internal review committee looked at sanctions, definitions, and participation in representation in extracurricular activities. They developed a new matrix graphic grid and corresponding dashboard based upon healthcare wellness/illness visual models that scale in number and color. This allows individuals – complainants and respondents and others – to see and know exactly the range of sanctions per violation type and severity if found responsible.
  2. New guidelines for representing the university in extracurricular activities
    Participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege. Whether students are on an athletic team, in the band, the Corps of Cadets, student government or other recognized organizations, the ability to participate in representing the organization is subject to new guidelines.
  3. Dean of Students decides interim restrictions
    The Dean of Students - not a coach, nor the Commandant, Fraternity/Sorority leader or other organization lead – determines restrictions for participation between report intake and the hearing.
  4. The decision for eligibility to return to extracurricular activities is made at the investigation hearing, not upon return from suspension.
    It is important for all parties to understand clearly the ability or inability for a student found responsible for a violation to be eligible to return to an organization post suspension. That this decision is made at this time will establish greater clarity as will the new restrictions on post-sanction participation.
  5. Update a centralized Title IX omnibus site, to and from which all resources flow
    There are multiple intake points for reporting and that will continue so that there are various avenues available to individuals who report. The centralized website for Title IX, however, will be enhanced as the main hub to and from which other resources flow. There are very specific recommendations for this found in the internal review that will be helpful.
  6. Enhance and empower Title IX office, redefining role, resources and authority
    The nature of the Title IX office at other universities is changing and that is the case at Texas A&M as well. The office will be more prevalent across faculty, staff and student investigations alike and we will work to ensure they are resourced appropriately.
  7. Hire four additional positions
    Additional investigators, a Title IX Deputy Coordinator and case manager are positions identified to help provide more personnel trained in trauma-informed investigations to support students.
  8. Assign one-on-one case managers to assist students throughout the process
    Input included helping students minimize the number of times they have to recount their story. Having a case manager assigned one-on-one will help students know that they can count on support to help them understand what to expect and where they are at each step in the process as well as access to additional resources.
  9. Expansion and distribution of counselors
    Being able to embed and locate counselors – even a day a week in certain locations spread out around campuses – will make it easier for students to access care they need.
  10. Additional trainings approved
    Training is something that remains critical to staff, faculty and students alike, including subjects like what it means to be a mandatory reporter and how traumatic cases and investigations differ.
  11. Transcript notations 
    Students facing possible sanctions of suspension or expulsion will have a hold placed on their transcripts pending resolution of their case. If students are found responsible and suspended or expelled, a notation will be made to their transcripts. This is a commitment to other universities.

Approved Work to Continue

The eleven actions above and our efforts to provide a safe environment must be a continually evaluated and updated. To that end, there are four additional areas in which more work will continue as we move forward:

  1. Exploring Alternate Resolution Models – I have ordered a work group to study resolution models such as those centralized under a Title IX office and implications.
  2. Launch Implementation Task Force – This task force will ensure that the actions announced are indeed implemented and evaluated for further improvement. We are accountable to all Aggies for making these actions happen.
  3. Launch Faculty/Staff Task Force – This group will look at creating a similar sanctioning matrix to the student matrix, specific to faculty and staff. This provides clarity and is customized to issues faced and will include faculty, staff, and student interaction.
  4. Establish benchmarking considerations to ensure that Texas A&M is a national leader. As we have found, metrics can be measured in a number of ways, sometimes required in different formats depending upon the requestor. I would like us to look at reporting that is consistent and that indeed may be a new way to heighten transparency and accountability.

As we head into a new and exciting year at Texas A&M, I am proud of the improvements that are underway in this regard and again appreciative for the time, expertise and heart that many put into them. I encourage all students, faculty and staff to contribute to the success of each other in all that you do and to reach out with additional input or questions to me at feedback@tamu.edu which I will continue to read.

Sincerely,

Michael K. Young