Update on University Title IX Actions

MICHAEL K. YOUNG
PRESIDENT

January 31, 2019

Dear Aggie Community,

Last summer we heard from many inside and outside of the Aggie family about the issue of sexual assault on our campus. In response, I ordered two reviews – one internal and one external – to examine our existing processes and policies and to research examples of evidence-based practices.  On August 20, 2018, we announced a set of approved actions, including eleven actions put into immediate effect, and four areas of continued work related to enhancing our Title IX (TIX) investigations. 

I would like to provide you with a status update, nearly six months on, regarding the announced actions and areas of study and continued work:

  1. Enhance and empower Title IX office, redefining role, resources and authority.  We created a new Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations (CREI) charged with the investigation and resolution of Civil Rights claims, including TIX.  The department currently handles cases involving faculty and staff.  The handling of student cases will transition to this department beginning summer 2019.  This new department reports to the Assistant Vice President & Title IX Officer.
     
  2. Implement a new student-sanctioning model to allow individuals involved in the process to clearly see and understand the range of sanctions per violation type and severity.  The Texas A&M Title IX Cumulative Sanction Matrix was adopted and provides an overview of sanctions for those who have been found responsible for related student rule violations. The matrix provides a visual representation to allow individuals – complainants and respondents and others – to see and know the range of sanctions per violation type and severity if found responsible. In addition, employees involved in the investigation and resolution process are trained on how to utilize and apply the new guidelines. To raise awareness, educational presentations for students contain references to the new guidelines.
     
  3. Enact new guidelines for representing the university in extracurricular activities.  New student rules have been created that enable the University to implement interim restrictions on students’ participation in extracurricular activities while an investigation is being conducted.
     
  4. The Dean of Students―independent of a student organization or coach of a team―determines restrictions for participation in extracurricular activities between report intake and the hearing for alleged violations of the Code of Student Life.  This process change is complete and implemented.
     
  5. The decision on when students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities will be made during the investigation and sanctions process, not upon return from suspension.  This process change is complete and implemented.  This is important, as both the complainant and respondent will know at the time of sanctioning if a respondent will subsequently be able to represent the university.
     
  6. Create a central, omnibus website, to and from which all resources flow. Links to resources have been added to the existing website. Texas A&M’s new Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations has contracted with an outside web firm to develop a new website to serve as the main hub for resources and information. Current information is available on the existing Title IX website to assist individuals and the new site will be available summer 2019.
     
  7. Hire additional positions to assist with Title IX efforts. Four investigators, two case managers, and one Deputy Title IX Coordinator have been hired in the department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations to address needs outlined in both the internal and external reviews.
     
  8. Assign one-to-one case managers to assist students throughout the process.  This process change is complete and implemented to help students through each step in the process. The one-to-one approach provides continuity to students throughout the process.
     
  9. Expand and distribute counselors.  In addition to the Student Counseling Service’s White Creek location, counselors are embedded in satellite locations across campus to increase access to care for students. Furthermore, office space has been identified in Student Assistance Services should students need to speak with a counselor when they come in to seek resources or file a complaint.
     
  10. Approve additional training and communication, such as mandatory reporter, trauma-informed cases, and rights and resources. The Division of Student Affairs has engaged in additional training on Title IX resources and reporting obligations.  In addition, student conduct investigators, hearing board members, appeal board members, staff in Student Health Services, Corps of Cadets - Cadet Training Officers, Division of Student Affairs directors, and CREI staff completed trauma-informed response training.
     
  11. Pending resolution of their cases, Texas A&M will place a hold on the transcripts of students facing possible sanctions of suspension or expulsion. This process change is complete and implemented.

In November, the U.S. Department of Education published proposed regulations that may significantly change the way Title IX cases are investigated and adjudicated.  We have worked with the Texas A&M University System to submit comments on the proposed federal regulations, and will update you when final regulations are issued.  Meanwhile, we will continue implementing the action items we announced last August.  Our faculty/staff and implementation task forces will continue their work regarding resolution models and benchmarks, and will update as needed based upon the final rules from the Department of Education.

In February, we will launch the American Association of Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct to capture student voices around these issues.  Along with ongoing programs in place such as the bystander intervention program and the Step In Stand Up Campaign, these efforts contribute to continued improvement at Texas A&M University. 

I commit to keeping you informed as we progress and as we get more information from the federal government on final guidelines, and hope that you will consider lending your voice to this important issue.  I encourage all students, faculty and staff to contribute to our success and to reach out with additional input or questions to me at feedback@tamu.edu.

These efforts improve safety, transparency, fairness, and accountability at Texas A&M University.  The safety and security of students at Texas A&M University is our No. 1 priority.

Sincerely, 
Michael K. Young