Some students say Title IX investigations experience delays while remote

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Photo Credit: Raquel Higine | Daily Texan Staff

After filing her initial Title IX complaint in November, public health senior Kierstyn Gallegos said she was regularly updated on her case after meeting with investigators in January. Since all campus operations moved online in March, Gallegos said she’s had to repeatedly contact her investigators for information and has seen little progress. 

Her investigation is now in its seventh month. According to the Department of Education, investigations are typically completed within 60 days. In April, Title IX coordinator Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez said investigation timelines would remain the same, but some students with active cases say they feel like they are slipping through the cracks.

“There was a stalemate after things went online, and I wasn’t told how anything would be proceeding from the Title IX office,” Gallegos said, adding that she found information through other resources.

UT has multiple offices involved with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discriminiation in higher education, including sexual harassment. Investigations require the complainant, the respondent — who the complaint is filed against — and all witnesses to be interviewed.

In an interview with the Texan on June 16, Gallegos said her respondent hadn’t been interviewed. In a follow-up interview on July 4, Gallegos said she learned June 23 that her respondent was interviewed two weeks prior.

Because of the delay, Gallegos said she was worried about her case moving forward. 

Alicea-Rodriguez said if a respondent doesn’t answer an investigator’s interview request, they are referred to the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity department in the Office of the Dean of Students.

“Our policies say that if you're a respondent in our investigation process, you have to meet with us and participate in the process,” Alicea-Rodriguez said. “If you don't participate, then you are not complying.”

Gallegos said she is not aware if her respondent was ever referred to the Student Conduct office.

Dean Kruse, director of Title IX Training and Investigations, said investigators are supposed to update complainants and respondents every two weeks on the status of the investigation.

“I don't think much has changed in terms of process on our end,” Kruse said. “We've communicated quite a bit with students. We do multiple outreaches via email and phone as well if we haven’t heard from someone in a while.”

Gallegos isn’t the only student who hasn’t had regular communication from the office. Others say they had issues communicating with the office online even before operations went remote. 

UT student Kimberly said she filed a Title IX complaint through the online portal on November 5. She was redirected to a screen confirming her form was received and saying she would be contacted soon. 

After receiving no updates, she emailed the office in December and was told her complaint had never been received.

Kimberly, who asked to remain anonymous, said she submitted the form with a friend, who also remembers seeing the confirmation. Kimberly has not yet filed another complaint.

Kruse said there is no reason an investigator wouldn’t update complainants every two weeks, but there has been an increase in complaints in the past year. Alicea-Rodriguez said the number of complaints in 2019-2020 academic year have almost quadrupled from the previous year. 

While frustrated, Gallegos said she is not surprised with the office’s handling of her case.

“I know cases in general take a really long time,” Gallegos said. “That’s the reputation they have. I feel like COVID has exacerbated that and made it feel so much longer, along with me being home all the time.”