In 2011, the Obama Administration released revised Title IX guidelines for schools on handling cases of sexual harassment and assault. Sent from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the Dear Colleague Letter reads, "The harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students' right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime." In order to be Title IX compliant, the letter states, schools need to follow certain procedures for investigating and resolving sexual harassment and violence complaints, among them "designated and reasonably prompt time frames for the major stages of the complaint process." According to the OCR, a typical investigation takes 60 calendar days.
At the University of Maryland, investigations are taking an average of 140 business days, because the school's Title IX office, set up two years ago, is understaffed and underfunded. According to a thorough report by Buzzfeed's Tyler Kingkade, sexual misconduct reports have more than doubled, from 112 in 2014-15 to 243 in 2015-16; a survey found that 14 percent of women on campus are raped by graduation (which is consistent with other universities of Maryland's size). The Student Government Association at the University of Maryland has taken an unusual approach to fully funding the Title IX office. At a September 28th meeting, it approved a mandatory $34 fee to help cover the costs of the school's Title IX office, paid for by students. According to Kingkade's article, it's unprecedented:
"The National Center for Campus Public Safety and the Clery Center for Security On Campus told BuzzFeed News they did not know of any other schools with Title IX fees. Some universities have 'safety fees,' but they typically support security or campus police.
It's 'strange' to have the student government funding what is in essence an administrative department, said Tracy Pearson, an independent Title IX consultant. 'The responsibility is on the institution.'"
The $34 fee would double the office's budget to just under $2 million, allowing for the hire of additional investigators and a "manager of rape prevention programming" to bolster online training required of all students. The fee would have to be approved by University President Wallace Loh and the Board of Regents, but student government measures are typically rubber-stamped. If it passes, the home of the Terrapins will apparently be the first school using students' walking-around-money to combat campus sexual assaults.
Meanwhile, in 2014, the University of Maryland agreed to forfeit $31.3 million to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten. Construction recently began on a $155 million conversion of Cole Field House from a basketball arena to an indoor football practice building and a research/academic facility. The school, and the state, are each kicking in $25 million.