Altering Title IX: good vs. bad

ST. LOUIS – On Tuesday, the Missouri House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing in Jefferson City that drew in multiple listeners who heard from various leaders explaining what the bill would alter in the process of higher institutions investigating sexual misconduct.

The hearing focused on HB 573, sponsored by Representative Dean Dohrman, R-District 51.

“[This bill] would bring back the very basic tenant of due process,” Dohrman said.

HB 573 would significantly change how complaints involving Title IX would be handled on public and private college campuses. Process alterations would include unifying the system statewide, enabling lawyers to speak for their clients, and ensuring due process is followed.

According to Dohrman, the proposal would ensure that justice is “indeed administered” to all involved.

One supporter of the changes to the Show-Me State’s law, according to the Missouri Campus Due Process Coalition, is David L. Steward. Steward currently serves on the board of trustees for Washington University-St. Louis and is also a co-founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, based in Maryland Heights.

However, Washington University issued a statement Wednesday, explaining that it “strongly opposes” the proposal that would alter how the institution handles the claims of assault and misconduct.

“Washington University strongly opposes legislation that is pending before the Missouri legislature that would effectively gut the university’s process for handling sexual assault and misconduct on our campuses,” the unattributed statement reads.

The statement read that the bill would establish an alternative process that would be both re-traumatizing and re-victimizing. It also read that the proposal would have a “chilling effect on students’ willingness to come forward with claims.”

While the university is prudent on a Title IX that is both thorough and fair to all who are involved, it does not believe that the proposed legislation is the best way to achieve that.

Multiple concerns were raised from those for and against the proposal. Ultimately, through the legislation, the accused and the accuser would have their cases heard before the state Administrative Hearing Commission. This process would be much more formal than what universities and colleges currently do through Title IX claims.

According to Andy Hays, Title IX coordinator for the University of Missouri, the legislation would open the door for “limitless evidence” to be presented.

HB 573 is a companion bill to SB 259, sponsored by Senator Gary Romine, R-District 3, which passed out of the Senate committee and is due to be effective at the end of August this year.