July 30, 2020

July 30, 2020

UA Board of Regents adopts changes to sex and gender discrimination policies; will reconsider UAS/UAF merger

FAIRBANKS - The Board of Regents has approved significant revisions to its policy regarding sex and gender-based discrimination. The changes are as a result of new guidelines released by the Department of Education on May 6 that go into effect on Aug. 14. 

All universities must follow the Department of Education’s rules in cases of sexual harassment and assault on campuses. The board also approved minor revisions to employee and student conduct policies to ensure that misconduct which no longer falls within the scope of Title IX will be addressed through alternative processes. 

"The proposed policy changes are consistent with the U.S. Department of Education requirements,” said John Davies who chairs the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Title IX, adding that if a reported instance doesn’t fall within the newly defined Title IX policy and regulations, it will be addressed under nondiscrimination, student conduct or human resources policies as appropriate.

Title IX is a comprehensive U.S. federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The federal rule changes are extensive and alter policies that have governed the university’s Title IX processes. For example:

  • The required definitions for the terms sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking have changed, and while these definitions differ from the current model, the same sexual offenses remain prohibited.
  • The new guidelines focus on the due process rights of individuals accused of sexual assault or harassment, and require a more formal complaint process including the opportunity for cross-examination by a party’s advisor during a live hearing. 
  • If a party does not have an advisor to perform cross-examination during the hearing, the university will provide a qualified representative at no cost. 
  • The guidelines also offer options for alternative processes that would allow parties to come to an informal resolution that does not require a live hearing in some cases.

Acting President Michelle Rizk signed the corresponding university regulations regarding sex and gender-based discrimination that detail the processes and definitions outlined by the newly changed Regents policy.

The board’s governance committee provided a report from its meeting last week on proposed amendments to its bylaws on the roles and responsibilities of the board, president and the chancellors. The amendments will be considered by the board at its September meeting. 

Board Chair Sheri Buretta also announced that the board will review and reconsider some aspects of its motion to explore the merger of UAS and UAF when it meets next week saying that the board has received feedback from a number of interested parties but that it has yet to establish the working group to take the matter any further.

“While there have been preliminary conversations among staff regarding project scope and deliverables, work to develop the Conceptual Plan has not been initiated,” she said. “...and it is my intention for the board to review and reconsider some aspects of the June motion at our meeting on August 5th.”

The Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Members serve an 8-year term, with the exception of the student regent who is nominated from his/her campus and serves a 2-year term. The Board was established through the Constitution and is responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the University President.

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For more information, contact Roberta Graham, associate vice president of public affairs at 907-360-2416 (cell).