WACO, Texas — Education Director Betsy Devos announced major changes to Title IX guidelines, leading universities to discuss new plans for dealing with sexual harassment.
The new guidelines are designed to improve due process for students accused of sexual harassment. Under the guidelines, accused parties will be allowed to cross-examine their accusers through an adviser and give universities the chance to choose the standard for accusations.
Additionally, faculty members and coaches will no longer be required by federal law to be mandatory reporters. That decision will come down to individual schools.
Representatives for both Baylor and Texas A&M told 25 News the schools are still in the process of reviewing the changes. The proposal is more than 2,000 pages.
In a statement, Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said, “While the University analyzes the new parameters, the first priority for Texas A&M Athletics will always be the safety and well-being of our students.”
Baylor University released a statement on the Title IX page of its website, saying its current policies are in compliance with the current standards, which are set to expire in August.
"Now that the regulations have been finalized," the statement said, "we will spend the coming weeks carefully reviewing them and determining the best way to implement these regulations, ensuring we maintain processes that are thorough, equitable and sensitive to the needs of all parties."
Some advocates for sexual assault victims fear the new rules could discourage victims from coming forward and speaking out about their trauma.
"If any changes are made, my question is always, "Who is this benefiting?"" said Licensed Clinical Psychologist Emma Woods. "And when it looks like it is not benefiting the victim, there are problems there."
Woods represented multiple women during the Baylor sexual assault scandal of 2016. That scandal led to the termination of football coach Art Briles's contract and the resignation of university leaders Ken Starr and Ian McCaw.
School leaders were accused of covering up alleged rapes and assaults involving the Baylor football team and failing to do their jobs as mandatory reporters.
The updated federal guidelines give university's the option of whether to require coaches like Briles to be relieved of those duties. However, the NCAA and certain state regulatory agencies may require that they keep that role.
The new regulations go into effect August 14, 2020.