By: Brett A. Sokolow, J.D.
Every individual within a school or college setting is someone’s beloved friend or family member. Therefore, the responsibility to safeguard their well-being should be considered sacred by every educational institution that addresses allegations of discrimination and harassment.
However, schools and colleges operate as political actors. They are positioned precariously between warring parties and are expected to referee everything from microaggressions to quasi-criminal allegations involving serious misconduct like rape and hate crimes. Very few people consider schools and colleges to be good at refereeing, including many members of ATIXA – an association I founded to help schools and colleges address Title IX and discrimination complaints more effectively. In candid moments, Title IX administrators tell us that they are being set up to fail. They’re understaffed, undertrained, under-resourced, and always caught in the middle. Above all, no one is happy despite their hard work and diligence.
Unfortunately, public perceptions and those in the education field match the internal perceptions of many Title IX professionals. Earlier this month, the subscribers’ Daily Briefing by the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that students are losing trust in their campuses about Title IX incident reporting. “What’s frustrating students who come forward?” the briefing asked, and a bulleted list followed: “Investigations are bureaucratic and confusing. The Title IX office does not serve as a victim advocate, but [as] a compliance unit. Punishment for students who are accused is rare. Even if they’re found responsible for sexual misconduct, victims often see the sanctions as inadequate.”
The reasons for these sad realities are easy to understand. The government has stepped in to drive Title IX compliance, and that’s rarely a recipe for improving anything. Regulation has replaced caring administrators with stoic, opaque bureaucracies that are ponderous, re-traumatizing, and adversarial. Today, the public lacks trust in institutions of all kinds. Some of that is self-inflicted. With respect to Title IX and other forms of discrimination, institutions are always self-dealing. This isn’t hidden; it’s well-known and is the root of the problem.
What do we mean by self-dealing? Schools are not objective, disinterested parties, though our constituencies expect and need schools to be honest brokers. How can schools be objective when they are at risk of lawsuits and government investigations as the result of every Title IX decision they make? How can they be impartial when their reputations live or die on their decisions in Title IX complaints, when bad PR has costs, and public scrutiny and student protests are one misstep away? Title IX failures bring infamy and ignominy that topples presidents, impacts admissions, cripples endowments, and sows distrust. These failures result in billion-dollar financial settlements. There must be a better way, and that extends beyond Title IX to complaints of discrimination under ADA/§504, Title VII, Title VI, and more.
TNG Consulting, as an industry leader in this area, has embraced increasingly expansive missions throughout our nearly 25-year history. At first, by establishing ATIXA, our mission was to help schools understand and embrace Title IX’s protections related to sexual violence. When knowledge of Title IX became commonplace, TNG’s mission expanded to help schools learn and operationalize best practices for institutional response to sexual misconduct. Now, our mission has evolved further. We also want to help schools increase the reporting of sex offenses, earn back their constituents’ trust, and improve the quality and accuracy of complaint outcomes for all parties involved.
When students, parents, faculty, and staff trust the objectivity of their educational institutions, it leads to better incident reporting and safer environments. We intend to restore that trust and objectivity and provide the honest broker we desperately need. We’ve contemplated our mission thoroughly, and the result is The FAIR Center. The Center is your wraparound solution for discrimination complaint resolution that is prompt, professional, and precise. Investigations and decisions by the Center’s team of experts result in outcomes you can count on.
Backed by TNG Consulting’s deep bench of expert consultants, FAIR is a trusted third party that provides impartial and experienced investigations and resolution services. When your constituents see an independent external entity like The FAIR Center investigating complaints, they know the matter will be taken seriously, and they will get a caring resolution that reflects best practices consistent with law and policy. They deserve nothing less, as schools and colleges owe their constituencies that.
TNG is excited to offer schools and colleges The FAIR Center as a comprehensive solution for their most challenging, sensitive, and complicated complaints. To inquire about The FAIR Center’s solutions, please visit FairCenter.com.
Read part two of this series, coming soon, to learn more about The FAIR Center’s model, pricing structure, and how it complements — rather than replaces — existing processes and systems.