Update to the UNH Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment Policy

Friday, August 14, 2020

Effective August 14, 2020:  The U.S. Department of Education issued final regulations in May 2020 ("Title IX Regulations") that require substantial revision to the procedures by which UNH investigates and addresses allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment ("Sexual Harassment") that impact members of the university community.

Sent to all UNH Employees (status / adjunct) on August 14th, 2020 from Affirmative Action and Equity Office -

UNH will make all changes required by the Title IX Regulations, and will continue to work toward reducing the rate of sexual misconduct in the university community through both prevention efforts and vigorous enforcement of its policies against sexual harassment.  The university’s commitment remains unchanged to ensuring that all members of our community are afforded an environment free from discrimination and harassment in which to work, study, and live. With the Title IX Regulations going into effect Friday, August 14, 2020, I want to take this opportunity to give a brief overview of the most pertinent updates the university has made to the Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and Student Rights, Rules & Responsibilities (SRRR) in order to be compliant with the new regulations.

The Title IX Regulations provide an updated definition of sexual harassment which limits harassment subject to the regulations to include:  1) Quid pro quo harassment;  2) Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the institution’s education program or activity; or 3) Sexual assault as defined by the Clery Act and dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking as defined by the Violence Against Women Act. Only offenses that occur in the university’s education programs or activities and against a person in the United States fall under Title IX. Allegations of sexual misconduct that fit within the Title IX definition must be investigated and addressed using the procedures prescribed in the regulations.  Allegations of sexual misconduct that violate university policy or the student code of conduct but which do not fit the Title IX definition will be addressed using procedures detailed in the Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and SRRR.

Key components of the Title IX Regulations include:

1.  Once a formal complaint of Sexual Harassment is filed, the person accused will promptly be provided with written notice of the allegations, which will include the identities of the parties involved in the incident (if known), the conduct allegedly constituting Sexual Harassment, and the date and location of the alleged incident (if known).
2.   Title IX Sexual Harassment allegations will be investigated without university discretion to dismiss claims except in limited circumstances.  The university will assign an independent investigator for each case.
3.  The parties have expanded rights to participate in the resolution of Title IX claims, including but not limited to:

a.  Access to an advisor assigned by the university, who can assist them through the investigation and adjudication. Parties can instead choose to bring an advisor of their choice, who may be an attorney. The advisor will also conduct cross-examination of other parties and witnesses at a live hearing to decide the case.
b.  Several opportunities throughout the process to appeal decisions made by the university, including the decision that the matter constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX, and the responsibility determination.
c.  Access to all materials received during the investigation, which the university will make available to use at a live hearing to decide the case.

4.  Although the Title IX Regulations limit in some circumstances the university’s ability to offer an informal resolution process, where permitted UNH remains committed to allowing the parties to participate in such a process if they prefer to do so in lieu of a full investigation and adjudication.  In order to support informed and empowered decisions, informal resolution will be mediated by the university and the parties’ advisors and the UNH Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) will be invited to participate.     

I will continue to update the community throughout the fall term.  If you have questions about these changes, please contact me at dms@unh.edu.

Thank you,

Donna Marie Sorrentino
Director and Title IX Coordinator
Affirmative Action and Equity Office

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