JAMS recently announced the formation of its JAMS Solutions for Higher Education group. As a member of this team, I’ve been attending conferences such as Stetson University’s National Conference on Law and Higher Education. I’ve also been speaking to key members of the higher education community about the important cases that are molding and impacting Title IX programs throughout the country.
As a provider of neutral services to higher education, JAMS is well aware of the challenges school administrators face when considering changes to their Title IX programs. Compounding these pressures are pending federal regulations that will require many schools to change the way they handle Title IX matters.
Urgency in California Schools
An even more urgent call to action, however, is being promulgated by state courts. The California Court of Appeal, for example, in Doe v. Allee invalidated Title IX models utilizing internal decision makers. The court held:
“…that when a student accused of sexual misconduct faces severe disciplinary sanctions, and the credibility of witnesses (whether the accusing student, other witnesses, or both) is central to the adjudication of the allegation, fundamental fairness requires, at a minimum, that the university provide a mechanism by which the accused may cross-examine those witnesses, directly or indirectly, at a hearing in which the witnesses appear in person or by other means (such as means provided by technology like videoconferencing) before a neutral adjudicator with the power independently to find facts and make credibility assessments.” [Emphasis added.]
Now that the use of neutral adjudicators is law in California, school leadership in that state is clamoring for solutions. JAMS has resolved many thousands of highly sensitive, emotional disputes over its 40-year history, and since 2011, it has presided over Title IX hearings as adjudicators and hearing officers at institutions across the country. Title IX–trained JAMS neutrals are available immediately to assist colleges and universities in complying with California law. JAMS is singularly qualified to assist schools that wish to also offer informal resolution such as mediation to their students under current federal guidance.
What About Colleges and Universities Outside of California?
For schools outside of California, it may be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach to determine exactly what the federal regulations will require before making substantial changes to existing programs. As in California, however, schools may inadvertently subject themselves to adverse court decisions well in advance of the new regulations becoming law.
School administrators across the country have been left to decide how best to balance this risk while also protecting their students and their institutions.
JAMS can help. We can alleviate the burden. We can provide neutrality, transparency, impartiality and the experience and expertise that these cases require. We are paving the way for positive change, and that change is on the horizon.
Jennifer Sambito is Client Solutions Manager at JAMS. She can be reached at Solutions@jamsadr.com.
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