Statement by the President and Vice President on Title IX Guidelines

May 15th, 2020

Acts of sexual assault, misconduct, harassment, and other forms of sexual violence remain pervasive on Penn State’s campus. It is critical that survivors are both heard and respected, and that the federal guidelines which universities like ours abide by instill responsibility and accountability in preventing these acts and supporting all collegiate survivors of them.

We believe that a uniform definition of consent is integral to ensure fair treatment of all within the student conduct process. A definition of sexual misconduct should include more than “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive,” which can be interpreted to not include cases of rape. It must be the responsibility of educational institutions like Penn State to actively combat the rape culture on college campuses and address acts of violence that they should “reasonably know about,” rather than simply not be “deliberately indifferent.” Off-campus assaults should also be addressed with rigor and persistence—and universities must be given the ability to protect their students by doing so. 

These provisions and others are absent in the Department of Education’s Final Rule on Title IX regulations for colleges, as announced on May 6th, 2020. These guidelines fail to address the needs of Penn State students, institutions of higher education, and our nation as a whole in combating sexual assault and the campus rape culture. In many ways, these guidelines perpetuate stereotypes and negatively impact survivors. 

Students deserve better—they deserve transparency, greater protective measures, committed task forces, and administrative accountability; federal Title IX guidelines can and should enable this. 

On behalf of the over 40,000 undergraduate students at Penn State’s University Park campus, we urge the Department of Education to revisit the federal Title IX regulations. As Penn State reports, surveys, and students have shown, sexual assault has been—and remains—a serious problem on our campus. It is imperative that federal guidelines are capable of guiding institutions like ours to an effective and responsible solution. 

We—and the UPUA—will always stand in support of victims of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any other form of sexual violence. Please contact us if we can help you in any way. 

President Zachary McKay – president@upua.org

Vice President Lexy Pathickal – vicepresident@upua.org

For resources on reporting sexual assault, please visit: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health-wellness/medical-services/services/sexual-assault-services