President Anthony P. Monaco released the following statement on September 25, 2017:
Tufts University is deeply committed to preventing and addressing sexual misconduct in our community. Over the years, we have made significant efforts to educate our community members about their rights and responsibilities under the university’s policy that prohibits sexual misconduct of any kind. We have also created a professional process that investigates complaints of sexual misconduct in a comprehensive manner with respect for the due process rights of the parties.
On Friday, September 22, 2017, the Department of Education rescinded its 2011 and 2014 guidance on sexual misconduct, and announced that it will be initiating a formal rulemaking process in the near future towards the implementation of regulations under Title IX. The department also issued new interim guidance in the form of a question and answer document.
We want to assure our community that we remain strongly committed to continuing with our policies, procedures, and practices under Title IX. Our current assessment of the implications for Tufts due to this recent Office for Civil Rights (OCR) guidance can be found below.
We have worked diligently to address sexual misconduct at Tufts and we remain committed to enforcing our policies and procedures to ensure the safety of our students and all members of our community.
Impact of U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Guidance on Tufts’ Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures
Standard of Proof in Sexual Misconduct Cases –The new guidance permits schools to use either the “preponderance of the evidence standard” or the “clear and convincing standard.” Even before OCR’s 2011 Dear Colleague letter, Tufts’ disciplinary policies and anti-discrimination policies have used a preponderance standard to address disciplinary matters. We do not intend to change our long-standing practice in applying the preponderance of the evidence standard that continues to be applicable to all disciplinary matters, including sexual misconduct.
Mediation Option in Sexual Misconduct Cases – The guidance permits schools to use an informal resolution option if all the parties agree and if the school determines that the complaint is appropriate for such a process. Tufts’ policy currently does not offer mediation in sexual assault cases. We will continue to adhere to OCR guidance, still in effect, which notes that informal methods for the resolution of sexual misconduct cases are appropriate but that “in some cases, such as alleged sexual assaults, mediation will not be appropriate even on a voluntary basis.”
Time Frames for Resolution of Complaints – The new guidance eliminates the fixed time frame for completing a Title IX investigation, stating that institutions should make a “good faith effort to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner designed to provide all parties with resolution.” This expectation is consistent with Tufts’ policy and we will make every effort to complete investigations within a 60–90-day time frame. If we are unable to do so because scope, complexity, or other factors require more time to provide the most complete, fair, and impartial investigation, we will notify the parties of any change in time frame.
Access to Information in the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Process – The new guidance describes the type of information that must be provided to the parties. Tufts’ policy and process already meet these requirements by providing the respondent with an opportunity both to review the complaint filed in a sexual misconduct matter and also to respond in writing prior to the initial interview. Also, beginning in July 2017, OEO began the practice of offering the investigative report for review and response to both parties. All relevant evidence will continue to be provided prior to any adjudication proceedings.