The University has revised its sexual-misconduct policy and adopted changes to “simplify and expedite” student disciplinary procedures, several months after federal officials notified schools across the country of their obligations under Title IX relating to sexual harassment and sexual violence against students.

An April 4 letter from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that offered 19 pages of guidance to colleges and universities, along with the OCR’s investigation into Yale’s response to a fraternity incident, “added new urgency to reforms that were already being discussed on our campus,” Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 said. 

Eisgruber said that changes approved in September by the faculty and by the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) would “help us to demonstrate compliance with Title IX,” a 1972 federal civil-rights law that prohibits discrimination on campus on the basis of gender. 

The University has established separate student disciplinary procedures and Title IX grievance procedures. Disciplinary proceedings — investigations of alleged student violations of University rules — require evidence that provides “a clear and persuasive case.” Title IX grievances — complaints against the University alleging that Princeton has failed to meet its obligations under federal law — require a lesser standard, a preponderance of the evidence.

Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law who has been involved in Title IX complaints against Princeton and other schools, took issue with the University’s approach. “Preponderance of evidence is a nonnegotiable standard of proof for all harassment based on sex — including sexual assault — irrespective of whether the harm is framed as a ‘disciplinary’ matter or a ‘Title IX’ matter,” Murphy said. 

Eisgruber described the University’s procedures as “fully compliant with Title IX,” saying that the OCR letter notes that colleges and universities “have options about how to address Title IX grievances related to sexual misconduct.” 

Murphy also said that while the University seeks to resolve Title IX grievances within 45 days, the lack of a deadline for appeals is problematic.