Maryland Law Changes Title IX Process

Written by Jonah Schweitzer and Kylie Miller.

A new Maryland law has changed the Title IX process for colleges across the state. Many students at Goucher have had questions about what this means. The Goucher Eye sat down with Title IX Coordinator, Lucia Clark, to learn more. 

After a case is brought to Title IX, the reporting party has the option to proceed with either an informal process, a formal process, or no process. Survivors who report a case to Title IX are referred to as the reporting party. The person(s) who are reported by the reporting party are referred to as the responding party. 

Informal processes are handled by the school, and Title IX acts as an intermediary to form a deal between the accuser and accused. An informal resolution typically concludes with accommodations being made for the reporting party. This would often take the form of the responding party changing dorms or switching classes. An informal resolution does not constitute an admission of guilt from the responding party.

Alternatively, a formal process involves a third-party investigator from Title IX and typically takes much longer. According to Clark, these investigations should be concluded within 60 days, but this rarely happens. Investigators undergo a process of speaking with witnesses and all parties involved, which is made difficult by Goucher’s year-round reporting policy. Frequently investigators are attempting to interview students who are off-campus or studying abroad.

Per this new Maryland law, some survivors will no longer the option to choose an informal process over a formal process. This only impacts cases of sexual assault that constitutes as rape. In Goucher College’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking, these cases are defined as “Having or attempting to have intercourse, which is any non-consensual sexual intercourse (anal, oral, or vaginal), however slight, with any body part or object, between any persons.”

The option for no process is still available to all survivors who report to Title IX. They are still eligible for accommodations from Title IX, as long as they do not interfere with the responding party’s comfort. This means that without going through a formal process, a reporting party could be granted academic accommodations for them personally, but could not compel the responding party to change dorms, for example.

If a survivor reports to Title IX that they have been sexually assaulted, outside of four specific circumstances, they still have no obligation to proceed with an investigation. But if the report constitutes as rape and they want a proceed with a process, it must be formal. Either way, they are not required to report the sexual assault to police or pursue a criminal trial if they don’t wish to. 

The only circumstances where Title IX will file a formal report regardless of the reporting student’s wishes are:

  1. If a weapon was used.
  2. If there were multiple assailants.
  3. If the sexual assault was drug-facilitated.
  4. If the report reflects a pattern of behavior regarding the accused party.

An email was sent out to the Goucher Community by President Kent Devereaux about these changes. The email also mentioned that the school will be hiring a second Title IX investigator to, “reduce the average elapsed time between when a complaint under the college’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking is filed, and when a decision is rendered.”

According to Clark, when the second Title IX investigator was hired, it was because the first had been extremely ill and unable to work for nearly a month. 

Devereaux also announced in his email that Goucher will require, “mandatory, annual sexual harassment bystander training, mental health awareness training, and diversity awareness training for all faculty, staff, and students.” There has yet to be any further explanation on what this will look like.

Maryland is not the first or the last state to implement a new law like this. These changes are happening in anticipation of a proposed federal law that would require similar changes to be made in Title IX offices nationwide.

Photo from Goucher College Title IX Facebook Page.

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