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State increases oversight of sexual assault investigations on Georgia campuses


The Georgia Board of Regents just released new policies on sexual misconduct investigations on the state's public campuses. The new policies require reports to the University System of any cases involving alleged violations that may result in a suspension or expulsion.

Nationwide, colleges are examining how they handle complaints of sexual misconduct in response to mounting criticisms that the rights of the accused are being ignored.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos met with students, parents, schools, advocacy groups and experts to learn about their experiences. She sat down with victims of sexual assault and students who, according to ED, “have been falsely accused and disciplined under Title IX.”

DeVos is investigating whether directives from ED’s Office of Civil Rights have led to protracted and unfair investigations. She says her goal is balancing the rights of accusers and the accused.

The Georgia Legislature debated changing how universities handle sexual misconduct charges, but that effort did not succeed this year after victims protested. These policy changes by the Regents appear to be a way to appease lawmakers who wanted more oversight and consistency in how cases are handled.

Here is the statement from the Regents:

Today, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved revisions to Board policies 4.1.7 Student Sexual Misconduct and 4.6.5 Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Investigation and Disciplinary Proceedings. The new policies will establish increased oversight of investigations by the System Office and provide a consistent approach for handling all student misconduct matters through the same procedure.

In March 2016, the Board adopted a new sexual misconduct policy, which has been in effect since July 1, 2016. Since that time, the USG has reviewed a number of cases, worked collaboratively with campuses and now recommends improvements to the existing policies.

“The goal of these policy updates is to improve campus safety and to ensure consistency and quality in student conduct investigation across the university system,” said Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “We are working closely with our institutions and using their experience and insights to make sure we are putting best practices in place for the safety of our students and campus communities.”

Key policy enhancements include:

  1. Increased Oversight

    • Institutions will notify the University System Office of any cases involving alleged conduct violations that may result in a suspension or expulsion.

    • The University System Office will have its own investigators to assist institutions as needed.

    • All investigations will follow a consistent process.

    • Title IX coordinators will have a direct reporting relationship to both the president or the president’s designee, and the University System of Georgia associate vice-chancellor for legal affairs.

  2. Single Process for All Student Conduct Cases

    • If charged, an accused will be adjudicated in the same manner, regardless of the nature of the charge.

    • All conduct issues will be addressed by the Student Conduct Policy.

    • All conduct hearings will be conducted through the Office of Student Conduct, which will utilize experienced student conduct officers.

    • All student misconduct cases will be adjudicated by the Office of Student Conduct.

  3. Prevention and Education

    • Title IX coordinators will focus more on prevention and education.

    • Title IX coordinators will receive ongoing training to increase expertise in handling cases.

    • All incoming freshmen will continue to receive training, including drug and alcohol abuse prevention, through alcohol.edu and The Haven.

    • Prevention of sexual misconduct training, alcohol.edu and The Haven will be available to all students.

The updated policies can be accessed here.

 


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.