The Association of Title IX Administrators, a group of officials charged with ensuring gender equity on campuses, issued a declaration of support Monday for the Office for Civil Rights’ controversial “dear colleague” letter that reiterated institutional responsibilities in responding to and preventing sexual assault. The declaration was co-authored by the Women's Sports Foundation.
The letter has drawn negative responses from general counsels and free speech groups, particularly for its clarification that, when considering complaints of harassment and assault, institutions need only apply a preponderance of evidence standard – meaning it’s “more likely than not” that the complaint has merit. While critics have worried the standard might lead a college’s judicial body to issue unwarranted punishments, the association called the standard “the only equitable choice under Title IX as it avoids the presumption, inherent in a higher standard of proof, that the word of a victim is less weighty than the word of an accused individual’s denial.”
The administrators praised the letter’s emphasis on equitable treatment for victims and accused students. Both parties are entitled to certain privileges – a campus advocate for the victim, for instance, or fair notice of the charges for the accused – that colleges have at times been criticized for violating.