The Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX in November, and Ohio State President Michael Drake said he is concerned that these changes will create a barrier that discourages students from coming forward with possible Title IX violations.
In an interview with The Lantern on Tuesday, Drake commented on his concerns with the suggested changes and the letter he sent to the department during the open comment period.
“What we want to do is to establish, share our opinion, help them to get rules that were as reasonable as possible, as supportive and helpful as possible,” Drake said. “When the rule comes out we will then evaluate that and see how it lines up with our values and and then do our best to be clear about where we stand on those things.”
Drake said that while the university is obligated to follow federal law, Ohio State can still institute regulations above and beyond the law.
The Department of Education’s suggested guidelines stated they are interested in instituting fair process procedures, such as presumption of innocence, placing the burden of proof on the school and cross-examination to test the credibility of parties and witnesses. Drake said legal standards do not always apply to code of conduct violations that do not rise to the level of crime.
“We are allowed to have evidentiary standards that we apply to code of conduct violations that might not be the legal standard and we want to use those in a way that helps to protect our students and make this the safest environment that we can have,” he said. “We’re very interested in the safety and protection of our students and we want to try to balance these things appropriately. And that’s what my letter meant.”
In a Board of Trustees meeting in February, Drake said certain parts of the suggested guidelines are “unworkable,” and on Tuesday, he said that specifically referred to rules that would have unintended consequences of discouraging students coming forward to report misconduct.
Drake said he is concerned that if the new rules are put in place, the university would see less students be willing to come forward due to new procedures such as the cross-examination of witnesses.
“What I wish is for anyone on our campus, any of you, any of us, who have an issue to be able to bring it forward, and to be encouraged to bring it forward so it can be investigated appropriately,” Drake said. “I believe that some of the issues that are recommended in the new rule would put a burden on the people who came forward.”
Drake reiterated the university would evaluate the rules when they come out and that it will strive to uphold its core values.
“What we’ve been doing all these years is trying to encourage more reporting so we can learn more and be a better and more reactive community,” he said. “I was concerned that some of the things in the proposed rules would go in the opposite direction. Period.”