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Sullivan announces new sexual misconduct reporting requirements

Policy to comply with Title IX education requirements

In an email to the University community Wednesday, University President Teresa Sullivan announced a new University policy requiring most faculty and staff to report allegations of sexual misconduct they hear from students.

In her email, Sullivan said initial conversations after incidents of sexual assault are particularly important.

“Defining faculty and staff roles will help students decide whom to approach when seeking help,” Sullivan said. “Some students may prefer to talk with a confidential source first, while others may want to pursue a more formal reporting approach.”

The University simultaneously launched an informational website for faculty, staff and students which included background information about sexual assault, an FAQ section and a reporting feature.

The University will now consider most employees to be “Responsible Employees,” Sullivan wrote. Those employees must send information about sexual assault directly to Title IX Coordinator Darlene Scott-Scurry. Faculty and staff can do so through a secure online reporting system.

“Employees who are in health-care or counseling positions are considered Confidential Employees, and they are not required to report to the Title IX Coordinator,” Sullivan wrote. Counselors or nurses in the emergency room, then, are not bound by reporting requirements.

Participants in public events, such as Take Back the Night, during which survivors of sexual assault share their stories, do not need to worry about the reporting requirement.

The reporting website’s FAQs section does not directly address student employees, such as those on work-study or those interning for various University and Health System departments. However, it quotes the official policy saying responsible employees are “any University employee who is not a Confidential Employee.”

In her email, Sullivan urged employees to examine online materials, but did not mention any additional training employees should undergo. According to the policy, however, employees must prepare to take on these new responsibilities.

“University employees are also required to complete training in order to understand their responsibilities in this area, including how to respond to disclosures by students of alleged Sexual Misconduct,” according to the policy, dated Aug. 25.

A three-member Evaluation Panel will decide whether the University should pursue a Sexual Misconduct Board case despite a survivor request for confidentiality. The Dean of Students, the Title IX Coordinator and a member of the University’s Threat Assessment Team will sit on the panel.

For example, if a student asks a professor to keep an occurrence of sexual assault confidential, the faculty member is not permitted to honor the request. Instead, the faculty member must report the incident and also report the student’s desire for no further investigation. The three-member Evaluation Panel will then determine whether to investigate further, based on additional evidence available or patterns of the accused’s behavior.

The University investigates all complaints separate from the police, and the University’s Sexual Misconduct Board possesses separate sanctioning authority. In other words, a University investigation does not necessitate a simultaneous law enforcement investigation.

Dean of Students Allen Groves said the University adopted the policy from one the federal government recently released as a model for schools.

“We believe it accurately reflects the current Title IX regulatory expectations for all institutions of higher education across the country,” Groves said in an email.

Title IX is part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prohibits discrimination based on sex in institutions receiving federal financial aid, such as the University. Title IX covers issues such as sexual harassment and gender equality in sports.


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