Responses to Questions Regarding Title IX.
These responses will be supplemented on a rolling basis with responses to questions submitted by members of the Drew community.
Note: Questions from different entities were in some cases combined and adapted when they addressed the same or associated issues.
1. What is Title IX?
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded education programs and activities.
Title IX requires the university to respond and take action to address sex-based discrimination and harassment complaints. This includes sexual misconduct complaints related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. As such, the university has established education and prevention efforts, as well as policies and processes for responding to complaints.
2. What do I do if I have a Title IX complaint?
If you would like to report an incident of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other sexual misconduct, you have several options.
3. Why were changes made to the Title IX structure?
Over the past year, we benchmarked the entire institution and its component parts. We compared our staffing structure in all areas to that of other institutions that are similar to Drew. We then examined all university structures to determine if we could achieve the same or better outcomes in other ways. This process was followed in this case.
We benchmarked against three groups of institutions: Drew’s regular peer group of national liberal arts colleges and universities (the group that we use for all university benchmarking), the independent colleges and universities in New Jersey (some of whom are competitor institutions), and a set of institutions from the Council on Independent Colleges that responded to a listserv query. The results showed that a “sole duty coordinator” Title IX structure was rare and that the Title IX coordinator role was more often assigned to individuals in a range of other areas such as student affairs, human resources, and institutional resources and with titles such as professor, provost, associate provost, dean, associate dean, and chief of staff/assistant to the president, among others. Out of a total of 50 institutions from these three benchmark sets, only seven had “sole duty coordinators,” and some of those are significantly larger than Drew.
4. Why weren’t the Title IX changes shared sooner?
The Title IX changes should have been communicated with the community earlier, and we apologize for the concern this has caused. We followed a standard process for communicating a personnel change, and that process did not work well in this instance. In general, for privacy purposes, we do not make campus announcements about single individuals leaving the university through involuntary separation resulting from organizational changes. This is to protect the privacy of the individual and to follow general human resources guidelines.
We followed the regular process, which is to notify those directly involved with that individual in the course of their work, and/or those community members who were directly and immediately impacted by the change. The Title IX/EEO Committee and the Student Advisory Board were informed and their work continued uninterrupted. We also updated the website. In this case there were community members not fitting these categories who feel strongly that our approach was not sufficient. We learned something from this about communication protocols, and we are re-evaluating future approaches to balance privacy and possible needs for broader communication.
In the last several days, President Baenninger and others have spoken with students, extended invitations to a discussion to the students who delivered the petition to her office last week, received feedback from a meeting with faculty held on February 4 and published a response to the petition in the Acorn.
5. Who is responsible for ensuring that Drew’s policies and practices are compliant with Title IX?
Frank Merckx is the Title IX coordinator, vice president of Campus Life and Student Affairs and dean of students. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 408-3390 and his office is in Ehinger Center.
The primary responsibilities of the Title IX coordinator are to ensure compliance with Title IX, including the Obama-era guidance on Title IX implementation. This includes ensuring best practice policy and grievance procedures for resolving Title IX complaints; coordinating responses to all complaints of possible sex discrimination; monitoring outcomes of grievances; working to address educational needs and prevention efforts; identifying and addressing any patterns that may exist and assessing effects on the campus climate.
The Title IX coordinator and deputy Title IX coordinators are able to receive complaints of sexual misconduct, including domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault, as well as discrimination based on gender or sex. The deputy coordinators also assist the Title IX coordinator in implementing various activities around education and prevention. The Title IX coordinator and deputy coordinators are able to speak with anyone, student, faculty, or staff, even outside their normal school or functional area, should they have a concern.
6. What if I want to report something anonymously?
Everyone tasked with Title IX responsibility at Drew is bound by confidentiality and anonymous Title IX inquiries and complaints are also possible. Any of the individuals listed in the response above can receive an anonymous Title IX inquiry or complaint.
7. What is the process for complaints that were made prior to the structural change?
The investigations of documented complaints that were already occurring continue and those that were scheduled to begin were started. Those involved in these cases were individually notified of the changes in the structure. In the case of documented informal inquiries or complaints, records were reviewed and support and outreach has been ongoing.
8. Is the new Title IX coordinator qualified for the role?
Frank Merckx, Title IX coordinator and vice president for campus life and student affairs, has a long history of work on this issue. He was a trained member of the Drew Sexual Harassment Committee, completed the 40-hour training and served as a Morris County Sexual Assault Advocate answering hotline calls and responding to the hospital to assist survivors with resources, worked to develop Drew’s relationship with related county agencies for over 15 years, received multiple trainings on sexual misconduct by national leaders, attended trainings and conferences organized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, is an inaugural member of the Title IX Coordinators of New Jersey, helped develop the most recent iteration of Drew’s sexual misconduct policy, implemented the Title IX online training requirement for all incoming students, established a sanctioning standard for those found responsible for dating or domestic violence with Jersey Battered Women’s Services (JBWS), developed, designed, and implemented the Sexual Misconduct Summit for Drew faculty and staff and serves on a variety of local and state Title IX-related committees including the JBWS Adult Services Subcommittee and a Rutgers University conference committee.
Additionally, Frank was appointed by the governor to represent independent New Jersey schools on the NJ Task Force on campus sexual assault, worked with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey to review their response to the Department of Education’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making, represented Drew before the NJ Secretary of Higher Education and the Attorney General to highlight concerns with the current proposed Title IX regulations, testified before the NJ legislature on campus sexual assault and presented nationally on the topic, including on panels at the Rowan Title IX conference, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators national conference and to the Advisory Board of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Also, his dissertation is an in-depth study of Title IX.
9. I heard that Frank Merckx’s dissertation is critical of Obama-era Title IX guidelines. Is this accurate?
Frank Merckx’s dissertation, “Sexual Misconduct Education: Challenges of Educating International Students with Domestic Education Assumptions,” is largely supportive of Obama-era Title IX guidelines and argues that implementation on college campuses could be even more effective if schools were able to address needs specific to international students.
He states on page four, “One significant positive of Obama-era regulations is the placing on the forefront of national and international discussion the crisis of sexual and relationship violence. There is now a significant conversation and dialogue amongst administrators, faculty members, and students in colleges and universities on ways that they can actively work to address and end sexual and relationship violence.”
He writes on page 134, “The safety and security of our students and other community members is extremely important. We are confident that the (Obama-era) changes in the Title IX structure will provide a safe, fair, respectful, and compliant coordination of Title IX related complaints, and we will continue to provide and enhance educational and preventative programming.”
10. President Baenninger said that cost-saving measures were guided by principles, including student success. How does the new Title IX structure reflect this?
With an expanded Title IX team, students have more options when reporting an incident and greater access to information and resources. Additionally, there is greater opportunity to create more educational and preventative programming, which is one of the Title IX team’s goals.
11. President Baenninger previously stated that cuts would not be made to student-facing positions. Why did this change?
In her November 2 address, the president shared principles under which cost saving measures would occur. She cited the principle that “student success would be at the forefront.” The changes to the Title IX structure enhances opportunities for institution-wide understand of Title IX and for sexual-assault reporting and prevention, which supports student success.
12. The Title IX coordinator position also had responsibility for AA/EEO. Where does this responsibility now lie?
Responsibility for AA/EEO is currently held by Maria Force. Under the leadership of Sari Pascoe, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are beginning the process of reviewing and redefining our AA/EEO policies and practices. A committee has been established with the goal of finalizing policy and protocols in summer 2019 with full implementation ready for fall 2019. Part of this committee’s work will be to recommend an optimal locus for this role. Those interested in contributing to this effort should contact Sari.
13. Can the administration ensure that all ongoing investigations that began before the structural change and reports filed up to the structural change are actively being handled and investigated?
The university has continued to process all cases documented prior to the restructure, the process for reviewing formal complaints has remained the same, and follow-up has continued without delay. In the case of informal inquiries and complaints, records were reviewed and support and outreach has been ongoing.
14. What steps has the university taken to ensure the confidentiality of complainants is respected while their report has been shared with up to eight new members of Drew’s Title IX team?
All information regarding a Title IX concern, complaint or process is held in the strictest confidence by all involved, including the Title IX investigators who work with the University.
15. How does the present administration and newly appointed coordinator and his deputies understand the role and functions of the Title IX team and their positions?
The responsibilities of the Title IX coordinator remain the same under the new structure. The primary responsibility of the Title IX coordinator is to ensure compliance with Title IX. Responsibilities include the grievance procedures for resolving Title IX complaints; coordinating responses to all complaints of possible sex discrimination; monitoring outcomes of grievances; working to address educational needs and prevention efforts; identifying and addressing any patterns that may exist and assessing effects on the campus climate.
The deputy Title IX coordinators are able to receive complaints of sexual misconduct, including domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault, as well as discrimination and harassment based on gender or sex. The deputy coordinators also assist in implementing various activities around education and prevention. All deputy coordinators are able to speak with anyone–student, faculty or staff–even outside their normal school or functional area, if they are approached with a concern from a member of the community.
All Drew staff and faculty (except for medical professionals, psychological or psychiatric counselors, or pastoral counselors acting under their recognized legal privileges) have an obligation to report instances of sexual misconduct when they learn of them.
Drew University strongly encourages victims of sexual offenses to also report offenses to the Madison Police Department or the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Drew staff will provide assistance in making such reports or contacts. In most circumstances, excluding domestic violence, which can include dating violence, law enforcement will not pursue criminal charges without a complainant’s consent or cooperation.
16. What are their Drew-specific long term goals?
Long-term goals include continuing to keep students safe through compliance with Title IX regulations, increasing the resources available to students, faculty, and staff and increasing educational and preventative programming.
17. Which aspects of the Title IX Committee approved Sexual Violence Assessment and Action plan do the Title IX coordinator and deputies believe to be a priority?
As discussed at the January meeting of the Title IX Committee, there are a variety of next steps, including examining the committee charge. In addition, the Assessment and Action plan needs to be reevaluated to update the target activities and continue to move items through to completion. Some of the established goals have been realized, such as strengthening the relationship among agencies, implementing a new grant-funded advocate position for all four of the Morris County schools, building a stronger county coalition and strengthening support for survivors through Drew’s relationship with Morris Cares. The Action Plan also mentioned improving the website, and that project has begun.
18. How will the administration ensure that possible conflicts of interest on the parts of the coordinator or his deputies do not inhibit the enforcement of Title IX given the new structuring of the Title IX team?
Our process has been expanded to assist in addressing conflicts, and other safeguards remain. Today, as in the past, the process offers multiple pillars for response when a complaint is made, which includes a Title IX coordinator, independent investigators, and separate adjudicators and appeal officers. For areas of overall enforcement, the Title IX coordinator is able to work with Cabinet colleagues to ensure equity in athletics, academics, and admissions, to name a few.
19. With the restructuring of the Title IX team to have one coordinator and three deputies (and several other involved persons), how will the administration assure students that their confidentiality will be not only respected but protected?
Providing safe, confidential processes for reporting is of the utmost importance. Drew’s confidential reporting structures remain in place and include the counseling office, health services, and the university chaplain. While there are now additional individuals designated as Title IX deputies, information they receive is shared only when that information is vital to supporting the parties involved.
20. In what manner will complaints and information about complainants be shared between the Title IX team members?
Beyond the Title IX coordinator and the deputy coordinator assigned to the case, information is shared with other team members only if necessary to ensure the fair and effective adjudication of the case or when other support or actions may be needed. This practice and process is the same as in the past.
21. How will potential Title IX complaints about one of the members of the Title IX team or coordinator in this situation be handled given the new structuring?
As has been the case, a complaint about a member of the Title IX team can be reported another member of the Title IX team, to the individual’s supervisor, the Office of Human Resources, or via the Campus Conduct Hotline ((866) 943-5787).
22. Will the new structuring of Title IX coordination require more outsourcing of investigations?
The university currently relies on independent, professional Title IX investigators and does not anticipate that additional Title IX investigators will be needed as a result of the change to the Title IX structure.
23. President Baenninger stated in an article published on 25 January 2019 in the Drew Acorn that all restructuring and cost saving initiatives were guided by a number of principles, first and foremost of which is “student success.” How does this restructuring of the Title IX office/team promote student success?
We take the safety and security of Drew students and other community members very seriously. With an expanded Title IX team, students have more options when reporting an incident and more access to information and resources, and there is greater opportunity to create more educational and preventative programming.
24. Were any individuals who had worked with a Title IX office as a complainant here or at other institutions consulted about how the structuring of the Title IX office either hindered or promoted their success?
Drew routinely reviews Title IX practices within higher education, both in New Jersey and nationwide.
25. I just want to clarify that not everyone who is involved with the Title IX Advisory Board was made aware of the change. I had spent months helping with the grant and Dean Merckx has not only failed to reach out, but has also avoided any opportunity to meet with me. I am disappointed in the fact that the coordinator was cut and that you are using this money to hire more CRE’s, a position that this school does not need in the first place. Your email felt so impersonal and was obviously written by a PR team in order to “save face.” If you want to lower the deficit, don’t take a salary until you can be bothered to make changes that not only make financial sense, but keep the safety and well-being of the students in mind.
Those listed as members of the Student Advisory Board were contacted on January 7th and those listed as members of the Title IX Committee were notified on January 8th. Please reach out to Frank Merckx at (973) 408-3390, members of the Student Advisory Board or the Title IX/AA/EEO Committee to discuss your interest in working on the grant.
26. You have mentioned a desire to make sure Title IX procedures are “fair,” but I am wondering, fair to whom? Does this include protecting the rights of those accused to due process? If so, how exactly are these rights protected? Are accused students allowed to know what they have been accused of, and to defend themselves, and to have their own counsel and support, before action is taken against them?
The university’s policy and process affords both parties “(E)qual opportunity to understand the basis for any charge, to review any fact-finding, to be heard and to appeal a decision that is against their interest. The university will seek to respect the rights of each party during the process and provide appropriate support, assistance and information, including aid in contacting law enforcement, if requested.” A respondent receives notice of alleged violations and how to participate fully in the process, including having the right of an advisor of their choosing, including legal counsel, throughout the process.
27. I appreciate this space for students to communicate directly with the administration about Title IX concerns. I was wondering how, especially in a time when sexual harassment concerns are at the forefront, is the administration able to justify knowingly continuing to employ a staff member who has had sexual relations with students?
When a Title IX complaint is filed against a faculty or staff member, the university follows its policy and processes, including the utilization of off-campus investigators. If there is a finding of responsibility, appropriate sanctions would be made. The policy states that sanctions can include “severe penalties, including, but not limited to termination, suspension, mandatory education, letters of reprimand or being placed on a performance improvement plan, as well as training, counseling, warnings or other outcomes appropriate to the underlying violation.” The finding and sanctions are confidential and not shared with the community.
Anyone wishing to file a Title IX complaint can contact any one of the individuals below or report anonymously by calling the Campus Conduct Hotline at (1) (866) 943-5787. They may also speak with any faculty or staff member. University policy states that members of the faculty and staff are required to share instances of misconduct with the Title IX coordinator.
28. I was wondering if there would be a meet and greet offered. Also, do you know who will be running the Title IX athlete meetings in the future?
We are organizing an opportunity for members of the Drew community to meet with the Title IX coordinator and deputy coordinators, as well as with our off-campus partners. Additionally, the Athletics Department liaison and Title IX coordinator have met to review the Title IX trainings that were already completed this year and to begin discussion on future trainings for all of our athletic teams. The trainings include Drew staff and students and representatives from our Morris County partners in order to share both on-campus and off-campus resources.
29. Why do you care less about the students and more about the budget of this school?
We care about the budget because we care about students. Eliminating Drew’s long-standing deficit and having a sustainable budget means Drew can dedicate even more resources to academic programs, career development and other kinds of student support that lead to student success.
The safety of Drew students and other members of the Drew community remains one of our primary concerns, and we believe that the changes to the Title IX structure provides a safe, fair, and respectful coordination of Title IX complaints. The Title IX coordinator’s responsibilities are the same under the new structure, as are Drew’s investigation and case review processes, which can be found on the website. Additionally, an expanded Title IX team provides students and others with more options when reporting an incident and greater access to resources. There’s also a greater opportunity to develop more preventative and educational programming.
30. To whom should someone report a Title IX incident involving a member of the Title IX team?
You can report an incident to any of the individuals below or anonymously report by calling the Campus Conduct Hotline at (1) (866) 943-5787. They may also speak with any faculty or staff member. Members of the faculty and staff are mandatory reporters, who are required to report instances of misconduct.
31. Who on our campus is considered a mandatory reporter?
All Drew staff and faculty have an obligation to report instances of sexual harassment or misconduct when they learn of them, except for medical professionals, psychological or psychiatric counselors or pastoral counselors under their recognized legal privileges.
32. Why was Michelle Brisson removed from the Title IX Team?
Michelle Brisson is an appellate officer. She is not listed on the Title IX website which focuses on those responsible for coordinating Title IX processes. Appellate officers do not play that role.
33. Why have so many different groups of people appeared on the website as members of the Title IX team?
While the website was being updated, a draft version of the page/list was mistakenly posted. This was corrected as soon as it was noticed.
34. In your responses, you said that if there’s a complaint against someone on the committee you can go to HR, but the AA/EEO officer is the director of HR. How do you avoid this conflict of interest?
The response indicated that a complaint about a member of the Title IX team can be reported to another member of the Title IX team, to the individual’s supervisor or via the Campus Conduct Hotline at 866-943-5787, in addition to the Office of Human Resources. An HR office can handle any employee related complaint, and handle AA/EEO complaints as well. There is no inherent conflict of interest. Please respond again with another question if you have specific conflict of interest concerns.
35. What are the qualifications of everyone on the Title IX committee?
Some committee members are faculty with a large area of research in a related area, others may be students who bring experience or have an interest in the topic and some are staff who work directly within the field or who are long-time supporters of students and others during their time at Drew.
36. How did you decide on who to put on the committee?
The original committee was structured with faculty, staff and students who worked with Title IX issues on campus. Others who expressed interest in serving on the committee were included.
37. You used the word “designee” often in your responses, meaning certain cases are delegated away from Frank Merckx. How do we know which person on the committee will be dealing with our case? What is it about each officer that makes them more qualified to deal with a certain type of case over another?
Anyone involved in a Title IX complaint is officially notified by the designated Title IX staff regarding who is managing her/his complaint. While each officer brings experiences that may be varied, cases are assigned to officers primarily based upon the factors of the complaint.
38. President Baenninger reported in the Vox article that she had not read Frank Merckx’s dissertation. Has this changed? How does she know the contents of his dissertation if she has not read it?
President Baenninger did not comment on the contents of Frank Merckx’s dissertation in the Vox article. Rather, she indicated that she had not observed anything from Merckx or anyone else on campus that suggested criticism of Obama-era guidelines. Here is her quote: “I’ve seen no criticality from the new director or anyone else on campus about the Obama-era guidelines. In fact, we’ve all sought to not only meet these guidelines but exceed them.”
39. When Emily Ralph was the coordinator, there was a position for a student intern. Is that position going to still be made available, or is it another change that has not yet been conveyed to the students?
The Title IX internship will be made available and we should have more information and an application process posted by the end of March.