- Title IX
- Sexual Harassment, Misconduct, and Assault
St. Olaf College is committed to a respectful, safe, and healthy environment and does not tolerate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct in any form. Prohibited behaviors include, but are not limited to, unwelcome sexual conduct or communication, rape and other forms of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. These behaviors are not only violations of an individual’s rights and dignity, but are also attacks on our college community and violations of college policy. In addition, some forms of these behaviors are crimes.
St. Olaf is also committed to promptly, impartially, and equitably addressing and resolving all reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct. When the college finds that such behavior has occurred it will take steps to stop the behavior, to prevent its recurrence, and to remedy its effects.
Use the navigation links on the right to learn more about the college’s Title IX Policy, and to access information and resources to support anyone who has been affected by, knows of, or wants to help prevent an incident or pattern of behavior. There are many individuals you can contact with questions and concerns, beginning with the St. Olaf College Title IX Coordinator Kari Hohn (507‑786‑3465).
NOTICE TO ST. OLAF COMMUNITY REGARDING NEWLY PROPOSED FEDERAL REGULATIONS FOR TITLE IX ENFORCEMENT
On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations regarding how colleges and universities need to respond to sexual harassment and misconduct reports. Many of these proposed regulations are a departure from regulations imposed by the previous administration, and might require St. Olaf to alter aspects of our reporting and investigation processes. We are currently in a waiting period while the Department of Education finalizes their regulations, and we will not know what their finalized regulations require us to do until they are published. The finalized regulations may be very similar to the proposed regulations, or there might be some changes. At this time, St. Olaf’s Title IX policy and process is not affected by the proposed regulations; however, please review the following Q&A document to better understand how these proposed regulations may affect St. Olaf’s Title IX processes if they are finalized as is. To be clear, the information currently contained in this website is accurate and reflects our current policy and process for Title IX-related reports and investigations. Please reach out to Title IX Coordinator, Kari Hohn, if you have any questions or concerns about this information.
How will the proposed regulations affect the College’s reporting process?
Very little. While the proposed changes alter the legal standard for when a school can be deemed to be on notice of sexual harassment, making it harder for colleges to be held liable, we do not anticipate changing our approach of encouraging reporting of all known or suspected occurrences of sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment. We anticipate continuing to have a policy requiring all “responsible employees” who are not “confidential resources” to report incidents so that individuals who report sexual assault or other forms of interpersonal violence can receive access to support services, accommodations, and information about their rights to seek recourse through on- and off-campus resources.
How will the proposed regulations affect the College’s intake process with the Title IX Coordinator?
We hope this will have very little impact as well. Our main focus when we receive a report of sexual misconduct is to provide access to services, and educate students about all of their options. When the conduct alleged involves a crime, we also encourage students to speak with law enforcement to learn about other options through the criminal justice system. Our goal is to provide this information so that individuals who report incidents are better equipped to make their own decisions about how they wish to proceed.
Under the College’s current policy, reporting sexual misconduct does not automatically result in a formal investigation by the College. While we talk about what our process entails, we leave it up the reporting party to decide whether to initiate this process. The only time we reserve the right to initiate an investigation over the wishes of reporting party are in cases where we believe there is an overriding threat to the St. Olaf community. Otherwise, we believe keeping this decision in the hands of the reporting party best balances the competing interests. If the proposed regulations go into effect, we will be required to initiate our formal process whenever we receive multiple reports about the same accused student.
When a reporting party opts to pursue the College’s formal investigation process, our intake process also extends to the accused student. All of the regulations requiring colleges and universities to offer support services and accommodations to these students were already built into the College’s process. As a result, none of these new regulations will impact the intake process the College already uses with these students.
How will the proposed regulations affect the College’s investigation process?
If the proposed regulations become final, the current process used by the College will likely include the same, or very similar, investigation process that is currently utilized, and the College will need to include an additional hearing process. The hearing required under the new regulations will require that the reporting parties and responding parties be subject to cross-examination by the other party’s advisor. If either party does not have an advisor to assist them at the hearing, the College would provide one. Through technology, we would arrange the hearing so that the parties can fully participate in the hearing without needing to be in the same room with one another.
As a result of the new regulations, we would also need to slightly change the method by which parties and their advisors have access to records relating to their matter. We would also be required to provide certain information that we do not currently make available (e.g., statistics relating to past Title IX cases, and training information received by investigators and adjudicators).
How will the proposed regulations affect the standard of review that the College uses in making its decisions?
Currently the College uses a “preponderance of evidence” standard of review in making the determination as to whether an accused student is responsible for violating College policy. Under this standard, the College looks to whether it is more likely than not that the accused student committed the alleged misconduct. Under the proposed regulations, the College will be required to use the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence” if the College uses such a standard in making any other disciplinary decisions relating to students, staff, or faculty. Under the clear and convincing standard of review, it is not enough to find that it is more likely than not that the misconduct occurred. A higher degree of evidence is required; one that is more than a preponderance of evidence and less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases. Before making any changes, the College will need to review all of its student and personnel codes of conduct to determine whether the clear and convincing standard is used. The College will also want to hear from various stakeholders to get their perspective and discern what standard best aligns with our community’s values and expectations.
Under the proposed regulations, will conduct off campus and/or on study abroad programs be exempt from the College’s Title IX policy?
The new regulations clarify that Title IX only applies to “programs and activities” of St. Olaf. While St. Olaf participates in many College activities off campus (e.g., away sporting events, Piper Center events, music tours), there are also many activities where students gather off campus that are not St. Olaf programs or activities (e.g., a gathering at a student’s off-campus residence). While the regulations do not require St. Olaf to apply its policy unless the event relates to a St. Olaf program or activity, the College is free to do so if it so chooses. Because sexual misconduct can severely impact a student’s living and learning environment, regardless of whether it occurs in the context of a St. Olaf program or activity, the College reserves the right to address any and all allegations that are brought to our attention. We do not anticipate the new regulations affecting our current approach.
The regulations also indicate that Title IX’s application does not extend to study abroad programs outside of the United States. Similar to the off-campus issues discussed above, although legally the College may not be obligated under Title IX to address sexual misconduct occurring on study abroad programs, we anticipate continuing our practice of offering our Title IX process to any student who alleges a sexual assault occurred in any off-campus study program.
When will these changes take effect?
A 60-day period for members of the public to comment on the proposed regulations ended in January 2019. St. Olaf participated in the commentary process, which resulted in over 100,000 total comments. The Department of Education is now reviewing and considering those comments before issuing the final regulations. It is unclear when the finalized regulations will be issued, but we will update the community once the regulations have been finalized.
Will the proposed regulations be the final regulations?
The purpose of the notice and comment period is to provide an opportunity for public input on the final regulations. It is possible that some of the feedback the Department of Education receives will result in changes to some of these proposed regulations; however, it is important to keep in mind that the current draft reflects many months of review by the current administration, and input from various individuals and groups. It is common for proposed regulations to become final with little to no revisions being made.