Dear Brown Community,
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education published proposed regulations that could introduce significant changes in how schools handle complaints of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. These regulations call for colleges and universities to examine — and in some cases modify — their investigatory procedures, standards of evidence and review of evidence, hearing processes, and which campus employees are required to report information shared with them regarding incidents of assault and harassment, among other aspects of policy and procedures.
Brown is committed to providing equitable and clear procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving allegations of sexual misconduct. We are carefully evaluating the proposed regulations to understand their possible implications for the University’s current policies and practices. I would have deep concerns about any changes that could impede the progress the Brown community has made to resolve issues of sexual assault and harassment, dating back to the 2014 recommendations of Brown’s Sexual Assault Task Force.
The federal process for establishing regulations includes a 60-day public comment period that allows institutions and individuals to submit questions, concerns and suggestions to the Department of Education regarding its proposed regulations. After our review of the proposed regulations is complete, we anticipate making comments — alone and/or with peer institutions — on any aspects of the regulations that might make our processes less fair and effective, or hinder our ability to support Brown community members who have experienced sexual harassment or assault.
After the final regulations are published, we will involve our campus community in considering the implications of the guidance for the University’s policies and procedures:
- Brown’s Title IX and Gender Equity Office will analyze the new regulations and educate our community about the changes the University will be required to make under the law, versus the decisions Brown will have the discretion to make to our current policy and practices.
- For discretionary items, we will solicit comments and ideas from members of our community, who will be able to share input directly or through one of our shared governance bodies (Undergraduate Council of Students, Graduate Student Council, Medical Student Senate, Faculty Executive Committee or the Staff Advisory Council).
- The Steering Committee for Equity and Diversity (SCED) will take the community feedback and identify themes and make recommendations for aligning current policies and procedures with new requirements.
- The Title IX and Gender Equity Office will develop an implementation plan for transitioning to the updated policies and practices.
The federal changes come at a time when Brown is reviewing its current comprehensive policy for sexual and gender-based harassment and assault. We previously announced that Brown will participate in the Association of American Universities’ national survey on sexual assault and misconduct in the spring, and the SCED will conduct the three-year review of policies and procedures concerning Title IX in Spring/Summer 2019.
It is imperative that we continue our sustained approach to preventing and confronting sexual harassment and gender-based violence on campus fairly and equitably. This cannot happen without the involvement of students, faculty and staff. I thank you in advance for your involvement in the months ahead.