How does the Title IX investigation process work at Texas A&M?

Texas A&M Title IX Coordinator Jennifer Smith

It’s been 50 years since Title IX – the landmark civil rights legislation that opened up countless opportunities for women in higher education – was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Texas A&M today spoke with the university’s Title IX coordinator, Jennifer Smith, an attorney who has dedicated much of her career to protecting civil rights. She shares some of the lesser-known story behind the law, how the Title IX investigation process works, and what Aggies can do to protect themselves and each other.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 that protects everyone from unlawful discrimination based on sex. In addition to requiring equitable opportunities for participation in University programs and activities (such as athletics, housing, and admissions), Title IX prohibits sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, stalking and sexual exploitation. Any school that receives federal funding must comply with Title IX.

Who can report?

Anyone – including campus visitors, parents, or vendors – can report gender-based discrimination, harassment, or violence. However, all full-time and part-time A&M employees (defined as anyone who receives a salary or stipend, regardless of student, faculty, or staff status) must report Title IX incidents. As “Mandatory Reporters,” employees who observe, experience, or become aware of a Title IX incident within the scope and scope of employment are required to report all known information to the Title IX Coordinator. Employees who are licensed medical personnel, such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors or AP Beutel Health Center physicians, are confidential and only submit anonymized statistics as mandatory reports.

How do people report Title IX at Texas A&M?

As Title IX coordinator, I am responsible for receiving and resolving complaints and ensuring that the university complies with Title IX. You can email civilrights@tamu.edu, call 979-458-8407, submit a report on our website, titleix.tamu.edu, or visit the Title IX office in the YMCA building and meet a case manager.

I filed a report. What happens next?

After receiving a report, a case manager will contact the person who was affected by the reported behavior. The individual will receive information about their rights under the university’s Title IX process and options for resolving their complaint.

What supports are available for the person reporting? Is there support for the defendants?

Case managers can connect affected individuals with resources on campus and in the community for counseling, medical care, support, and advocacy. They also offer support measures on a case-by-case basis. These options include assisting an individual with workplace, housing, or parking changes, academic adjustments, and providing a “no-contact” mutual directive, available to prevent direct or indirect contact between two parts identified.

These supports are available to both the person affected by the behavior and the accused. The person affected by the behavior is also informed of their right — but not their responsibility — to file a complaint with the police if the reported behavior could constitute a violation of criminal law.

Does the university automatically pursue discipline once it receives an initial report?

No. New federal regulations prohibit the university from moving forward until the person affected by the behavior files a formal, signed complaint requesting an investigation. This means that when we receive an anonymous allegation of sexual assault, for example, the university usually cannot initiate an investigation because we do not have a formal signed complaint from the person affected by the behavior. Another common scenario occurs when a student verbally reports a Title IX incident to a case manager, but does not follow up by returning the official complaint form requesting an investigation. Even if the university is aware of the misconduct allegation, we cannot proceed without the affected person’s written request for action.

What is the typical timeline of a Title IX case?

The time frame for resolving a complaint depends on the resolution chosen by the person affected by the behavior. Once a formal complaint has been filed and the university determines that a university rule may have been violated, the person affected by the behavior has the option of choosing a formal or informal resolution. They can also decide not to pursue any resolution at that time.

If the formal option is selected, the university will appoint an investigator who will gather evidence and information about the allegation. Once the investigation is completed, the investigator writes a report which contains all the inculpatory and exculpatory evidence that has been collected. Parties have the opportunity to review and respond to the report, which may trigger further investigation. Once the report is finalized, it is sent to a Hearing Officer who conducts a live hearing. If a party does not have an advisor, the University will provide one free of charge. The counsellor’s job is to provide support and advice to his party and to cross-examine the other party at the hearing. If the accused is found responsible for violating university rules, penalties could include a reprimand, probation, suspension or expulsion. The formal resolution process often takes one to two semesters.

If the informal option is selected, the Title IX coordinator will contact the accused party and determine if they wish to participate in the informal resolution process. If both parties agree to attempt an informal resolution, they will meet with a trained mediator who will assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution to the allegations. Although informal resolution agreements are very flexible, these agreements often contain requirements for restitution, educational activities, findings of liability and sanctions. If the two parties do not agree to attempt an informal resolution, or if the parties fail to reach an agreement at the informal resolution meeting, the university will continue with the formal process described above. Informal resolutions often take a week or less.

If a student admits to underage drinking or drug use while reporting an alleged Title IX violation, can the student be disciplined for drug or alcohol-related offenses?

No, Texas A&M is granting amnesty.

What was happening when Title IX was voted on?

Title IX’s first “big bang” was that it increased opportunities for women to participate in college athletics. But if you go back and look at the people who worked in Congress to pass this law, they weren’t specifically thinking about athletics when they passed it. Patsy Mink, Congresswoman from Hawaii (1965-77), was one of the authors and sponsors of Title IX. Although she was valedictorian of her high school class and had bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and zoology, dozens of medical schools refused to admit her in 1948 because she was a woman. Instead, she decided to go to law school in order to learn how to fight discrimination and create opportunities for women. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, one of the only law schools in the nation to accept women at the time, she quickly ran for Congress.

As the editor of Title IX, she originally tried to level the playing field in admissions, but Title IX has today been interpreted to constrain women to equal opportunities in every program or activity. academic – opportunities to attend college, play sports, participate in student organizations, work on campus, receive financial aid, and live in on-campus housing. Virtually every field touched by the university, Title IX is there.

How can Aggies work to support Title IX on campus?

A&M has the Step In Stand Up campaign which sponsors bystander intervention programs for faculty, staff, and students. It’s a great program that teaches people how to step in when they see something that shouldn’t be happening and how to step in to certain situations to help keep our community safe.

With the fall semester just beginning, we are promoting Red Zone awareness.

Fifty percent of sexual assaults on college campuses occur during the red zone, the period between the start of classes and the Thanksgiving break. Students, especially new students, should be considerate of each other and uphold Aggie’s core values.

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