University of Georgia Vice Chancellor Responds to ‘Significant Misinformation’ Contained in Inside Higher Ed Article

Kimberly Ballard-Washington, associate vice chancellor
University System of Georgia

On August 9, Inside Higher Ed published a story regarding the University System of Georgia (USG) that contained significant misinformation about the USG’s Title IX and student conduct policies: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/08/09/university-system-georgia-sex-assault-policies-step-away-obama-rules#.WYsn1Q2GG2o.twitter

As the Title IX Administrator for the University System of Georgia, here is my response to set the record straight regarding our commitment to campus safety and to ensure consistency and quality in student conduct investigations across the University System.

I have been working within the USG for the last 20 years dedicated to ensuring safe campus environments for our students, faculty and staff. So, it with this professional commitment that I want to clearly address the misinformation and inaccuracies in this story as follows:

Headline:
The headline is blatantly wrong. The University System of Georgia (USG) is committed to Title IX enforcement, and investigations will remain on college campuses.

Regarding the System Office, we will provide oversight and assistance as appropriate.

Meanwhile, USG conduct policies are in line with federal law.

Paragraph Three:
Responsibility for adjudication will remain with the campuses.

The second sentence of the third paragraph is wrong. The responsibility of adjudicating allegations of campus rape, or any allegation that could result in suspension or expulsion, remains with the campuses.

As shared during the August 8th presentation to the Board, investigations will be conducted by the appropriate institutional office, such as the Office of the Title IX coordinator, EEO or other individuals trained to investigate sexual misconduct cases.

The adjudication hearing process will be conducted by the Office of Student Conduct on each campus utilizing faculty and staff trained to hear sexual misconduct cases.

Paragraph Eight:
First, my title is wrong. My title is Associate Vice Chancellor.

The second sentence is misleading. The prior policy gave direction to the institutions on how sexual misconduct cases must be handled. The revised policy only adds the responsibility to report to the System Director any case that could result in suspension or expulsion.

The third sentence is also misleading. All complaints will initiate with each campus. Depending on the institutional needs and the severity of the case, a system-wide investigator might be assigned. Judgement of the case will be judged by the institution through its student conduct process. You are correct that we are hiring two new investigators; however, we also have multiple investigators at each campus.

Paragraph 12:
The first sentence is misleading. We made revisions to the draft based upon input we received as we circulated the draft revision policies broadly across our campus communities including with: Title IX coordinators, EEO staff, Student Affairs leaders and presidents of our Student Government Associations. We are grateful for their input as it helped to improve the policy.

Paragraph 33:
This paragraph regarding the Clery Act is wrong, as you are referring to an early draft versus the revised policies approved yesterday. USG policies, including the revisions approved yesterday by the Board, adhere to the Clery Act and are in full compliance.

Last Paragraph:
I appreciate the concern cited regarding the need for independence with our conduct policies. Please know, as Title IX Administrator, I am very comfortable in my role and the degree of independence I get to exercise on a daily basis. One reason that we are creating reporting lines with our campus Title IX coordinators is to ensure they have the comfort and independence to perform their duties appropriately as they ensure safety and fairness in sexual misconduct cases.

In summary, I want to be clear about the USG’s actions that were taken to strengthen its student conduct policies to improve campus safety and to ensure consistency and quality:

1. Increased Oversight
• Institutions will notify the University System Office of any cases involving alleged conduct violations that may result in a suspension or expulsion.
• The University System Office will have its own investigators to assist institutions as needed.
• All investigations will follow a consistent process.
• Title IX coordinators will have a direct reporting relationship to both the president or the president’s designee, and the University System of Georgia associate vice chancellor for legal affairs.
2. Single Process for All Student Conduct Cases
• If charged, an accused will be adjudicated in the same manner, regardless of the nature of the charge.
• All conduct issues will be addressed by the Student Conduct Policy.
• All conduct hearings will be conducted through the Office of Student Conduct, which will utilize experienced student conduct officers.
• All student misconduct cases will be adjudicated by the Office of Student Conduct.
3. Prevention and Education
• Title IX coordinators will focus more on prevention and education.
• Title IX coordinators will receive ongoing training to increase expertise in handling cases.
• All incoming freshmen will continue to receive training, including drug and alcohol abuse prevention, through alcohol.edu and The Haven.
• Prevention of sexual misconduct training, alcohol.edu and The Haven will be available to all students.