An inside view of Title IX
Spencer Tordoff & Kyrie Long / Sun Star
Though turnaround times have improved for investigations on campus, the Title IX office has faced limited resources for addressing cases to date, according to the office’s administrator.
“We did get additional funding,” Kevin Calderara, interim Title IX coordinator, said. “I wish I could hire somebody today…but all that takes time and training.”
Two positions have since been opened for the office, and are currently accepting applications. Though Calderara says that most reports to his office have been resolved within the 60 day window recommended by federal guidelines, some cases do run long.
Currently, the oldest cases under investigation by the office were opened in April 2015.
A look at Title IX process
The overall goal of a Title IX investigation is to determine whether or not a violation has occurred, Calderara said.
There are broader definitions under Title IX than under state law and investigations need only determine that a violation has likely taken place in order to move forward, as opposed to criminal proceedings where a suspect must be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
When a complaintant approaches the Title IX office for aid, it is up to them whether their complaint is investigated, with four exceptions — cases involving a weapon, that match a pattern of behavior, that involve a minor, or that involve a group of instigators. If a report has any of those aspects, the Title IX office may have to investigate, according to Calderara.
Investigations into reported violations begin with complaintant and respondent interviews. Depending on whether or not the complaintant reported to the police, a criminal investigation may also take place.
What happens with police investigation?
Information collected as part of police investigations is turned over to the Title IX office, but results gathered from the Title IX investigation are not shared with police, according to Police Chief Steve Goetz.
Results of police investigation are forwarded to the district attorney’s office in order to receive an external opinion on investigation results.
“We want an independent person to look at the case that we investigated,” Goetz said. “We want that fair and unbiased judgement.”
Resources for complainants
During investigation and deliberation, there are measures that can be taken to ensure an individual’s comfort, according to Dean of Students Laura McCullough.
“We’re trying to limit additional issues until that investigation is completed,” said McCullough. “It’s not about fairness, it’s about equity.”
Complainants may request a schedule change, withdraw from a class or receive an incomplete grade until they feel safe returning to class. Employers may be contacted in order to facilitate changes within the workplace. Health & Counseling as well as a contracted advocate are available for mental and emotional support.
In some cases with sufficient evidence, an accused party may be banned from campus or have limited access. In the event that they’re allowed back on campus, it falls to the dean of students to inform the complainant.
Dean of Students recommendations
If, after investigation, the Title IX office finds that a violation has occurred, the findings are passed to the dean of students. Their office reviews the findings and determines whether minor sanctions or major sanctions (such as suspension or expulsion) are warranted. Major sanctions can only be enacted by the chancellor.
Last year, in providing data for a federal audit of UA’s Title IX program, it was found that major sanctions were not enacted in cases investigated at UAF from 2011 through 2015. Since then, administrators say, changes have been made to make sure those sanctions are carried out.
Results of the federal investigation have not yet been released.
Following the dean of student’s review, a recommendation of sanctions is made to the chancellor and both the complainant and the respondent are given the chance to participate in an appeal process, although the chancellor still has final say on any actions that the university may take, according to McCullough.
Major sanctions work system-wide; if a student is suspended or expelled from UAF, they may not apply to any other university within the UA system, including rural campuses, McCullough said.
If major sanctions are applied to a student, that information is added to the state police database, according to Goetz.
After the chancellor makes a final call regarding the case, it is up to the dean of students and the university police to enforce the decision.
The administration’s main push for improvement is an effort to increase reporting of Title IX violations on campus. However, increasing reports will require more resources allocated to make sure cases don’t fall through the cracks.
“My goal is to increase reporting to well above the national average,” Calderara said, “but to do that I’m gonna need more people.”
“We know that these things happen in our community,” Grimes said. “Very few reports would be alarming, right? You want people to report, you want to see the reporting become more of a common thing.”