UT-Austin should centralize Title IX investigations into one office, law firm recommends

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Students raise papers printed “NO” when they felt the panelist's answers were unsatisfactory during the Open Dialogue with UT Leadership about Sexual Misconduct Policies & Practices held at a Belo auditorium on Jan. 27, 2020. Student members of the Misconduct Working Group felt unheard with issues such as room size and police presence during planning the leadership panel.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Law firm Husch Blackwell has released its final set of Title IX policy recommendations for the University, including a recommendation to centralize Title IX investigations to one office.

Husch Blackwell was hired in November by the University to review its Title IX policies after months of student protests against faculty sexual misconduct. In a letter published to the Misconduct Working Group website Wednesday, Interim UT President Jay Hartzell said the University will accept all the new recommendations.

“I am committed to continuing the university’s work of fighting sex discrimination in all forms and supporting those individuals who are subjected to sex discrimination across campus,” Hartzell said.

The University currently has multiple offices involved with Title IX investigations. The first recommendation from Husch Blackwell is to move these resources into one office. 

“The process was repeatedly described as ‘confusing,’ ‘overwhelming,’ and ‘bureaucratic,’” according to the report.

In March, the University announced the first set of recommendations, which included a termination policy for UT faculty or employees who violate certain sexual misconduct policies. Since then, the law firm has continued to review the University’s Title IX policies and office structure. 

The recommendations released Wednesday also include a director position for informal resolutions and restorative justice practices, a coordinator of prevention and training and a coordinator for supportive measures.  Implementing a restorative justice program was one of the demands from student protests last fall, and the program would bring together offenders and victims to allow for healing and understanding between both parties.

Hartzell said the recommendations should go into effect by the fall semester.