What is Title IX, and how has it evolved in American schools over the years?
Two of the leading advocates for changes to how Missouri’s universities police sexual harassment and assault are married to two of the people who would preside over appeals and hearings under the proposed system.
House Bill 573 and Senate Bill 259 would overhaul the Title IX system in Missouri to give more rights to the accused. Critics charge that the revisions would allow attorneys to grill rape victims about their past sexual history or drinking habits and have a chilling effect on others who might otherwise come forward.
Proponents say they’re an essential step toward due process in a system that can ruin the life of someone unfairly accused.
Both bills designate the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission as an appeals court for universities that expel or suspend students for violence against women through their Title IX proceedings. The commission typically acts as a court for state executive agencies. Students could also request their Title IX investigations to be handled by the Commission from the outset.
The three commissioners who make up that body are appointed by the governor to six-year terms. Two of them — Audrey Hanson McIntosh and Renee Slusher — are married respectively to the lobbyist leading the fight for the bill and a lawyer who has twice testified publicly in favor of the measure.
Richard McIntosh, a longtime Jefferson City lobbyist, has been advocating since last year’s legislative session for the Title IX changes. This year, he founded the dark-money group Kingdom Principles, which has in turn created a group to conduct polling and buy ads advocating for the bills.
He’s married to Audrey Hanson McIntosh, who was appointed to the commission in 2015. So-called dark-money groups are 501(c)4 nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors. One source of funding for McIntosh’s group is the St. Louis billionaire David Steward.
Chris Slusher is a Columbia lawyer who has represented accused students in Title IX proceedings. He has testified forcefully in favor of the bill in both the House and Senate public hearings, arguing that the process amounts to a miscarriage of justice for those people accused of sexual assault on campus. His wife, Renee Slusher, was appointed to the commission in 2016.
McIntosh declined to comment through both a spokesman and a lawyer. The Administrative Hearing Commission did not respond to a request for comment.
At a Tuesday evening hearing for the Title IX bill, Slusher testified in favor and said that he was neither a lobbyist nor was he paid for his testimony. He said he was testifying because he strongly believed changes were necessary.
“I guess I don’t see the problem with that. I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 25 years and the fact that I’ve had opinions on due process rights and Title IX. I just don’t see that as an issue,” Slusher said.
“It’s not like the commissioners are going to get paid more money,” he said.