DOE Title IX Regulations & SVSH Policy Communication

August 17, 2020

On August 14, 2020, the University of California issued a revised Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy.  The revision was required to comply with Title IX regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), which became effective on the same date.  While the University disagrees with many aspects of the new regulations and strongly advocated against them, we are legally required to implement them.  This letter summarizes the major policy changes.

Much of the prior SVSH Policy remains unchanged.  The same conduct that was prohibited by the policy prior to August 14 is still prohibited.  A subset of this conduct is now covered by the DOE regulations.  This includes sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and some conduct that constitutes sexual harassment if the person who experienced the conduct was in the United States at the time the conduct occurred and when the conduct occurred on University property or in the context of a University program or activity.  The SVSH policy contains definitions that further explain these terms.  The UC SVSH policy can be found here. (https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000385/SVSH)

If any of the conduct is covered by the DOE regulations and the process could result in discipline, the University must address the conduct through a process that is required by the regulations (referred to in the policy as the “DOE Grievance Process”).  All other conduct will continue to be addressed by the processes that existed prior to August 14, 2020.

For investigated cases that are covered by the DOE Grievance Process, the University must provide a hearing following the investigation.  This hearing must take place before a decision is made about whether the accused (known as the “respondent” under the SVSH Policy) violated the policy.  A hearing must be provided in cases where the respondent is a student or an employee.  At the hearing, the parties have the right to have their advisor ask the party’s questions of the other party and witnesses.  If a party does not have an advisor, the University will make a person available who will ask questions on behalf of that party.  After the hearing, there is a right to appeal the Hearing Officer’s determination.

For investigated cases that are not covered by the DOE Grievance Process and that involve a student respondent, the investigation is followed by a hearing where questions are asked of the parties and witnesses by a neutral Hearing Officer.  After the hearing there is a right to appeal the Hearing Officer’s determination.  In cases involving employee respondents, there is no hearing or appeal under the SVSH Policy.  Employees retain all rights to hearings and appeals that are available under the relevant grievance procedures. 

The regulations are complex and, as a result, the SVSH Policy is also complex.  The discussion above is just a summary to inform the campus community of the major changes. The University has developed initial FAQs that are available here. (https://sexualviolence.universityofcalifornia.edu/faq/)  As we receive additional questions, the FAQs will be updated.

If you have questions about how the policy might be applied to a particular incident or you have other questions that are not answered by the FAQs, please contact UC Merced Title IX Officer Michael Salvador, msalvador2@ucmerced.edu, 209-285-9510.  

Further information and resources can be found on the UC Merced OPHD Policies & Laws section of the website and the Systemwide Title IX Office website.