Those accused of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct at University of Missouri System schools may cross-examine their accusers through an intermediary under new federal Title IX regulations approved Tuesday by the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
In general, the federal regulations weaken the position of accusers and strengthen the position of those accused in Title IX hearings.
UM System general counsel Stephen Owens gave a report to curators last month on the new regulations. The ability of the accused to cross-examine victims could create a chilling effect on student reporting, he said.
“Some will worry about an anguish-inducing process that includes requiring them to face direct questioning by respondents’ aggressive counsel in a live hearing courtroom-like setting,” said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, when the policy changes were first introduced.
He introduced the changes to the Collected Rules and Regulations of the UM System at Tuesday’s meeting.
All university employees are mandated reporters of sexual harassment, said university counsel Kathy Bunn. Unequal pay based on gender also must be considered, she added.
The university is required to provide supportive measures for both parties in a complaint. A formal, written complaint is required to start an investigation.
During hearings, cross-examination must be done by advisers. If either party doesn’t have an adviser, the university will provide them, Bunn said. The advisers may be attorneys, but that’s not required.
“Many of the things they’re requiring, we’re already doing,” curator Michael Williams said during the news conference after the meeting.
There was a rush to make the changes, board chairwoman Julia Brncic said during the news conference.
It provides due process, she said.
“There’s a lot of review and not a lot of time to get it right,” she said.
A 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities found that a quarter of MU undergraduate women had experienced sexual assault.
The new federal regulations take effect Aug. 14.