The university’s Title IX policies are under review by Slade Sullivan, vice president and general counsel, and a lengthier policy is expected, said Sherita Nickerson, director of compliance and deputy anti-harassment coordinator.
“Within the next few weeks we’ll be sending out a new and expanded anti-harrasment Title IX policy,” Nickerson said.
The lengthened document will also put ACU’s policies up to date with recently signed state laws. Public and private universities in Texas have until Jan. 1, 2018, to implement new policies aimed at cracking down on sexual assault. Universities will be required to offer a form of anonymous electronic complaints for students and employees on their campus. The policies also include offering immunity to witnesses who might have committed a crime, such as underage drinking, when they witnessed a Title IX violation. ACU, however, has already had this policy in place.
“I’m happy to say we’re kinda ahead of that ball already,”said Nickerson. “Our policy, if you read it right as it stands today, already offers full immunity to anyone involved in a complaint. Say there was underage drinking involved, well, we’re gonna focus on the sexual assault and use the underage drinking as an opportunity to educate.”
The Title IX office adheres to the guidance laid out in a 19-page document issued by the Obama administration in 2011, commonly known as a “Dear Colleague” letter. If the Trump administration were to rescind that guidance, as Secretary of Education Betsy Devos suggested was possible in a recent speech, ACU would adjust its policies accordingly.
“We follow the guidance from the Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights because that’s what we’re going to be judged by and audited by,” Nickerson said.
Nickerson believes the Title IX office is fostering a culture where students are more comfortable coming forward, through an increased focus on education.
“We’ve expanded the Title IX office, so we have more people, so now we can focus more on prevention and education,” said Nickerson.