May 8, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As many of you know, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has recently issued the final version of its revised Title IX rules regarding the issue of sexual misconduct and harassment. An initial review of the extensive rules leaves me deeply concerned.

Trinity, along with thousands of other institutions and individuals, submitted detailed comments to OCR in January 2019 expressing concerns about the proposed changes that were introduced in the fall of 2018. My letter and those that we joined in collaboration with others (including the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges and the American Council on Education) noted that a number of the proposed changes could bring harm to our community and to our ability to ensure fair and equitable policies and processes for responding to sexual misconduct.

While we have been expecting the final rules to be issued for more than a year, we shared the hope of many others that the department would not impose them during a pandemic, as doing so places additional stress on members of our community, and responding to the more than 2,000 pages of new rules and complying with them by the department’s imposed August 14 deadline will require significant focus for many at the college. The guidance is not only lengthy, it is complicated and, in some cases, likely in conflict with state law.

So, there is much work ahead to understand fully the specific implications of these new rules for our community. We will be examining them in depth and consulting with members of our community and with others in higher education, and we will keep you apprised as we determine the impacts for Trinity. I have asked a small group of cabinet members to review the new rules and set in place a process for our governance groups to participate in this work.

In the meantime, please know that our commitment to the work of ending sexual and gender-based misconduct at Trinity is unshakable. That work includes prevention and education efforts, support and resources, and fair and effective processes for adjudicating complaints. We will continue to strive to create a community and a culture that are truly respectful, inclusive, and safe for all.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience