The Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights announced April 16 that it will be temporarily suspending some, but not all, case proceedings associated with Title IX violations. This suspension comes after the University’s decision to permanently transition to virtual classes for the remainder of the semester.
According to Emily Babb, assistant vice president for Title IX Compliance and Title IX coordinator, the decision was not made lightly and was reached after careful consideration of a variety of factors, including Virginia’s stay-at-home order until June 10. This decision was made in order to comply with Title IX procedures, giving individuals the right to an in-person meeting and ensuring confidentiality. Parties, witnesses and investigators that are currently sheltering in place may not have privacy or even access to the internet, making electronic proceedings impractical.
While these proceedings have been suspended, the Title IX Office still continues to receive reports of prohibited conduct. Title IX violations pursuant to the University’s Policy include sexual and gender based harassment as well as other forms of interpersonal violence. The continued operations will consist of health and safety threat assessments, conducting alternative resolution coaching sessions, interviewing witnesses and preparing investigation reports, among other procedures.
According to Babb, these were activities that were occasionally convened by telephone or video conference prior to the global pandemic. Now, they are exclusively convened by telephone or video.
Additionally, the Title IX office continues to investigate matters through Formal Resolution as well as resolving matters through Alternative Resolution. Only the Review Panel Hearings have been suspended, which is normally the in-person component of a Title IX case proceeding.
“The EOCR/Title IX investigators have been — and will continue to be — flexible in granting reasonable extensions of deadlines during pending investigations,” Babb said in an email statement.
Even though the Review Panel Hearings have been suspended, all of the Title IX investigators continue to investigate pending and new matters. Babb told The Cavalier Daily that EOCR remains open during the current global pandemic and University’s limited operating status.
“The EOCR/Title IX investigators and staff are working remotely to continue to receive, respond to and investigate reports of Prohibited Conduct pursuant to the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (Title IX Policy),” Babb said. “Since teleworking began, the Title IX team has opened five new Formal Resolutions.”
The Title IX Office has also made adjustments to case proceedings that involve students eligible to graduate from the University before the conclusion of the stay at home order. According to their announcement, the Title IX Office will not hold the degree of a student with a pending Title IX case. This change is consistent with the actions being taken in other student disciplinary processes, such as the Honor Committee. The University will confer degrees to graduating students who are involved in ongoing Honor cases.
However, according to the 2019-2020 University Record, the University reserves the right, in certain circumstances, to revoke the degrees previously conferred when it has been determined that a student has not complied with University rules and regulations. Additionally, the Title IX Office reserves the right to complete and resolve pending Title IX investigations even if a student’s degree has been conferred.
Despite these changes, Babb emphasized that the University continues to receive reports through Just Report It, the University’s online reporting mechanism, as well as through telephone calls to the Title IX office and Office of the Dean of Students.
“We encourage students, faculty and staff to continue to report any incident of Prohibited Conduct to the University through these channels,” Babb said.
The headline of this article has been updated to clarify that only Review Panel hearings have been suspended.