When Allison Cipriano read the U.S. Department of Education’s recently proposed amendments to Title IX, the federal statute prohibiting sexual discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, she was “quickly disappointed.” The 700-page document includes many rule changes she wanted to see, including protections for sexual minorities. But Cipriano, a Ph.D. student in psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who studies sexual misconduct investigations in academia, and others are dismayed by one set of changes. They would compel most university employees to be “mandatory reporters”—required to notify their institution’s Title IX office of any alleged sexual misconduct involving students they become aware of, regardless of whether the student wants them to.
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Past regulations have required universities to designate some employees as mandatory reporters but didn’t define who those employees should be. The new regulations, in contrast, would require any university employee who “has the authority to institute corrective measures” or the “responsibility for administrative leadership, teaching, or advising” to serve as a mandatory reporter. That definition encompasses most faculty members, says Lilia Cortina, a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who studies gender and co-authored the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s 2018 sexual harassment report.
“In the report, we talked about how problematic that is,” Cortina says of broad mandatory reporting policies. “[There’s] research showing that when you take control away from victims, that’s actually associated with an increase in psychological distress.” The requirements “essentially amount to nonconsensual reporting [of] their traumatic or humiliating or otherwise extremely distressing experience.”
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