Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Report recommends Title IX, mandatory reporting policy changes

April 1, 2023
<p>Olds Hall on Michigan State University&#x27;s campus on April 13, 2022. </p>

Olds Hall on Michigan State University's campus on April 13, 2022.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

An external investigation released by the Board of Trustees detailed 14 policy recommendations regarding Title IX and the Office of Institutional Equity. The more than $1 million investigation used the departure of the former business college dean Sanjay Gupta as a case study in its review of MSU’s Title IX process.

The board retained external legal counsel, the Quinn Emanuel Firm, in late August 2022 to review the circumstances of Gupta’s departure as well as a review of the MSU Title IX Office.  At its Feb. 10 meeting, the board voted unanimously to release the findings.

The firm concluded that Gupta did commit a mandatory reporting failure, but it’s still debated whether his punishment — removal from his position as dean— was appropriate.

The recommendations

Within the recommendations given by Quinn Emanuel, OIE refers to the Office of Institutional Equity, FASA refers to the Office of Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs, OCR refers to the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance and the reporting protocol refers to the university’s protocol for reporting Relationship Violence, Sexual Misconduct and Stalking. 

  1. Refine the notice requirement and coordination between OIE and FASA regarding reports of RVSM and Title IX violations by MSU employees including imposing a three-day notification deadline. 
  2. Add standard of proof, notice and grievance requirements for violations of the reporting protocol.
  3. Refine the reporting protocol.
  4. Refine the training materials for the RVSM and Title IX policy and the reporting protocol.
  5. Set standards and guidelines for OIE’s interview reports and memoranda of findings regarding alleged violations of the reporting protocol.
  6. Sequence investigations of alleged violations of the reporting protocol to follow the underlying investigations of alleged violations of the RVSM and/or Title IX policy.
  7. Establish factors for determining the discipline, if any, that violators of the reporting protocol should receive.
  8. Clarify the scope of the policy on revocation of honors and awards.
  9. Clarify the scope of the discipline policy.
  10. Implement a policy to govern alcohol consumption at off-campus events MSU sponsors.
  11. Implement a policy requiring at least two mandated reporter employees to stay for the entire duration of events MSU sponsors.
  12. Implement a policy to require communication to other universities/employers about former MSU employees’ RVSM or Title IX violations.
  13. Expand the resources for OCR.
  14. Improve the Title IX certification process.

What is recommended for the mandatory reporting process?

The firm’s recommendations for the mandatory reporting policy focus on refining the process, clarifying what constitutes a reporting violation and establishing guidelines for the discipline of any violations. 

In refining the process, Quinn Emanuel recommended MSU apply the “preponderance of the evidence” standard to prove mandated reporting failures. This standard states that a respondent is responsible for a violation if, after reviewing all relevant evidence, more evidence shows a true allegation than not. It is currently required for RVSM and Title IX violations.

The firm also recommended revising the policy to define “prompt reporting” with a specific time period in which a report must be made after learning of an RVSM or Title IX allegation as well as a requirement for reporters to seek guidance from OIE if they are unsure if the information needs to be reported.

It was also recommended that MSU should clarify the policy’s desired scope and decide whether there should be any limits on reporting in cases where the incident has already been reported or where the information was learned indirectly. 

The report said the firm’s interviews showed “widespread confusion” over these issues, including several mandated reporting failure cases illustrating respondents not understanding re-reporting was required. 

For defining a discipline policy, Quinn Emanuel said clear factors for determining discipline — like intent, motive, previous violations and history with the reporting process — should be clearly established and a range of disciplinary actions should be outlined. 

The current discipline policy includes procedural safeguards and rights for faculty with tenure, but “is not sufficiently clear” on the application of the policy for tenured members of administration, like deans the report said. The firm suggested this scope be clarified and stated explicitly.

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