Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights revealed the list of 55 American colleges and universities that are under investigation for possible violations of Title IX – many of them for issues around sexual assaults. As we knew, and announced to the campus and community last July, one of these OCR investigations is related to a 2013 incident involving a CU-Boulder student.
As you may recall, last July I also announced the campus was conducting an external review of CU-Boulder’s compliance with Title IX and we commissioned the outside firm of Pepper-Hamilton to conduct that review. In January, the firm submitted its report, finding that CU-Boulder was in compliance with all federal laws and recommending that we hire a single Title IX director for the campus to consolidate the two offices we have today – one for student issues and one for faculty and staff issues. We are engaged in a search for that Title IX director.
By moving our Title IX efforts under a single reporting structure and under a single individual, we can create a more effective response to Title IX issues, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, ending discriminatory practices in hiring and promotion, and educating our campus about compliance with Title IX as a basic order of our mission.
This week, the White House issued a report recommending that colleges and universities take a series of strong actions to combat sexual assault on campus. The report recommends, among other measures, that institutions have a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy, strong prevention strategies and a place where victims can go to receive confidential support.
I am pleased to report that we have had these particular measures in place at CU-Boulder for some time. We discuss consent and sexual assault prevention at new student orientation and follow up with messages throughout the year. The Office of Victim Assistance provides free and confidential counseling, advocacy and support to CU students, faculty and staff, and we established that office in 1996, setting a course for national leadership on this issue. However, we have more to do to fully integrate our efforts into the campus culture.
I am aware that many of our students are circulating a petition asking us to form a task force of administrators, faculty and students to implement the White House’s recommendations. I fully support doing this. We intend to evolve our current policies, training, support mechanisms and awareness to make ourselves a model by which all other universities are measured. I pledge to you that we will review all the White House recommendations and integrate those elements into what we are currently doing, all with the goal to move us above and beyond mere compliance, into leadership.
In the mean time, you can see below a list of links detailing the actions we have taken since last August demonstrating the commitment I have, with my leadership team, to this issue. Feel free to give me your input and ideas on other things you think we should be doing at email@example.com.
Philip P. DiStefano, chancellor
University of Colorado Boulder