August 14, 2020
Greetings fellow Braves,
Welcome to the Fall 2020 semester! As UNC Pembroke’s Director of Title IX and Clery Compliance, I join other administrators in sharing a welcome message with you—and there certainly is much to share about what is new regarding Title IX. As the Title IX Coordinator (TIXC), I work to address issues of sex/gender equity, sexual harassment (including dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault), protecting the rights of pregnant/parenting students and employees, and the rights of LGBTQIA2SP+ students and employees to be free from discrimination. A dedicated Title IX & Clery Compliance Team assists me in such endeavors and together we wish to use this opportunity to provide the entire campus community with an update about key changes everyone should be aware.
First, effective today, August 14, UNCP has overhauled its Title IX-related policies and procedures. This overhaul entails a major departure from past practices and is the result of new Title IX regulations that were issued by the U.S. Department of Education in May. These regulations, which carry the “full force and effect of law,” are very lengthy and detailed (2083 pages!). Mainly, they seek to provide strong due process protections to those who are accused of sexual misconduct while also balancing the rights of those who experience sexual harassment, assault, dating violence, domestic violence, retaliation, and/or sex/gender discrimination. They also contain substantial procedural components all colleges and universities must adopt and implement regardless of whether they are a public or private institution. One such component, for instance, is the use of live hearings for all sexual misconduct matters involving our faculty, staff, and students (although those live hearings may be conducted virtually through technology). While we have years of experience in live hearings for student sexual misconduct matters, this will be a new process for our faculty and staff.
You may have heard about the new Title IX regulations from friends, news outlets, or on social media. Many people who have read the regulations have mixed feelings about them. Honestly, no level of government intervention on any issue is inherently all good or all bad, but it is the goal of UNCP to emphasize the best parts of the regulations while working to minimize the potentially negative impact of some of the more challenging provisions. While we will comply with all requirements, there is some latitude for how colleges and universities interpret portions of these new rules, and how they are implemented.
Importantly, UNCP provides a number of protections to all members of this community, including:
- Providing clear, written notice to anyone accused of sexual misconduct along with a presumption of innocence;
- Due process protections and accountability for students and employees (including faculty and staff);
- Conducting a process that is very transparent to the participants, where all evidence is known and shared prior to any final decision;
- Providing a strong set of supportive measures to all parties that are designed to effectively bring an end to any hostile environment;
- Delivering resolutions to complaints as promptly as possible;
- Strong sanctions for violations of policy;
- A clear brochure offering guidance on all resolution options;
- Flowcharts to make policy and procedure options clearer and more user-friendly;
- Vetting process and enhanced training for administrators to ensure they are impartial and unbiased; and
- Appropriate informal resolution opportunities for those who might decline to pursue formal resolution.
Significantly, the regulations leave it to UNCP to decide to be more protective than the law, and with that understanding, the university views the regulations as setting the floor of what we must do. Moreover, here at UNCP, we are aiming for the ceiling of best practices in as many areas as we can. You may have heard, for example, that the regulations require cross-examination during the live hearing, and many students and employees may have concerns about that. However, we will not have direct questioning by one party of the other.
Although the process includes a hearing, we are doing everything possible not to make the process excessively adversarial or contentious. In fact, the regulations do not require the parties to be in the same room with each other, and all parties have the right to an advisor of their choosing throughout the process. At the hearing, trained, neutral hearing board members ask most questions, and if there are remaining questions, the advisors pose the questions to the parties, not the parties to each other. In addition, the questions are not posed directly, but instead are funneled through the hearing board chair who first determines whether the question is relevant, and ensures that it is not abusive. This approach to questioning is humane and trauma-informed, while also helping the hearing board members access all the information needed to make a fair decision.
Second, while the new regulations mean many changes for UNCP’s policy and procedures, as well as continued revision of related resource materials, forms, and template letters what has not changed is our dedication to a process that respects the equal dignity of all members of the campus community. We respect the right of someone who experiences sexual misconduct to process it in the way that is best for them and helps them heal. We respect their right to choose to bring a report forward in pursuit of formal resolution or to seek a response from the Office of Title IX and Clery Compliance that is primarily centered on supportive measures and resources available through the university and/or the larger community. We also respect their right to choose whether to involve law enforcement and pursue criminal prosecution. Fair process is a priority, as is repairing harm and facilitating healing and safety for all members of the community irrespective of race, sex, gender identity/expression, age, ability, religion, socio-economic status, or the other qualities and identities that we value within our diverse community.
To learn more about our new Sexual Harassment Policy and Regulation, please visit our webpage. Please note the content of that page and the corresponding resources are in process of being revised and updated. We recognize not every member of the campus community is going to be comfortable with the new federal regulations, all aspects of our Policy and Regulation, or perhaps even the concept of our holistic approach. We understand that and welcome your voices and input in the coming weeks and months as we strive to continually improve our collective efforts in addressing equity, sexual harassment, and non-discrimination and to be responsive to the concerns of the members of our campus community.
On behalf of the Office of Title IX and Clery Compliance and the entire Title IX & Clery Compliance Team, I wish you a healthy and safe 2020-2021 school year.
Ronette Sutton Gerber, Esq.
Director, Title IX and Clery Compliance
Title IX Coordinator
Clery Compliance Officer
The School of Education Building, Room 334
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
One University Drive | Post Office Box 1510 | Pembroke, NC 28372
O: 910.521.6281 | F: 910.521.6165 | C: 910.674.0080
www.uncp.edu | www.uncp.edu/titleixclery
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. All members of the university community are expected to engage in conduct that contributes to its culture of integrity and honor that we always strive to maintain. The university prohibits its faculty, staff and students from engaging in any form of discrimination, protected-status harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, and retaliation and expects these individuals to refrain from committing acts of discrimination, bias, or sexual violence as these sexual misconduct offenses jeopardize the health and welfare of our students and employees. In compliance with federal and state law and university policy, the university maintains processes to provide redress and remediation to individuals or groups who believe they have been the victim of these offenses.
Ronette Sutton Gerber, Esq. Kaye Patel Fraley, Esq.
Director of Title IX and Clery Compliance Campus Investigator
Title IX Coordinator The School of Education Building, Room 344
Clery Compliance Officer The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
The School of Education Building, Room 334 Office: 910.775.4105
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Cell: 843.992.3001
Office: 910.521.6281 Facsimile: 910.521.6165
Cell: 910.674.0080 firstname.lastname@example.org