Brendan Clark ’21
Trinity College released its response to the Department of Education’s proposed rulemaking on Title IX last week. Berger-Sweeney’s response was sent to students, faculty, and staff via email, with the note that her response “joins many thousands of others that have been submitted by individuals and institutions.” The response, formulated after the Department of Education’s release of more than 150 pages on Title IX rulemaking, comes several days before the Department is set to review the proposed guidance in light of public comments.
In her letter, Berger-Sweeney noted that the formation of a task force in 2014 to review and revise the College’s policies yielded “a report with specific recommendations to improve our efforts.” Moreover, added Berger-Sweeney, the College’s current policy is “fair, equitable, accessible to all parties…and is consistent with national best practices.” Berger-Sweeney expressed her concern that several of the new proposed policies “will undo some of that work and undermine our efforts to prevent and respond to sex discrimination and misconduct.”
Further, Berger-Sweeney identified several changes that were particularly troubling to Trinity. These changes included “that institutions must provide live hearings with cross-examinations,” that the “cross examinations ‘must be conducted by the party’s advisor of choice,” and that the new regulations “would narrow the definition of sexual harassment.” Berger-Sweeney stated that the inclusion of attorneys as advisors would “further deter reporting and investigations and create inequities between students with disparate financial resources.” Further, the new regulations will be “detrimental to our ability to provide support and to prevent sex-based discrimination involving members of our community” and, according to Berger-Sweeney’s letter, will result in the erection of a “quasi-judicial proceeding,” something that is difficult for a small college to facilitate.
Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas added that Trinity “expect[s] a lengthy review process of the more than 100,000 comments that were submitted in response to the proposed regulations.” Rojas also stated that he is presently in Washington, D.C. as of the time of publication to meet “with members of our federal delegation to directly share our concerns.”
Berger-Sweeney’s letter, submitted along with an endorsement from Trinity for letters from the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges and other peer institutions, will be considered by the Department of Education as it finalizes the rules in the coming months. “The Department of Education will review the comments over the weeks and possibly months ahead and we hope and expect that they will make amendments to the proposed regulations,” Rojas added.