Valerie Simons: OCR representatives seeing our Title IX progress first-hand

Published: Sept. 17, 2015

In my ongoing effort to keep the community informed, I am providing our students, faculty and staff with an update on CU-Boulder’s Title IX initiatives.

You may recall that in July 2013, Chancellor DiStefano sent a memo informing our campus community that CU-Boulder was the subject of an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation looking at our Title IX practices and that he had ordered an external review of our Title IX policies by nationally recognized experts. While that review found that we were meeting legal requirements, the Chancellor wanted to exceed legal compliance and make further enhancements to Title IX practices. In May 2014, he informed the community that he intended to evolve our current policies, training, support mechanisms and awareness to make ourselves a model by which other universities are measured.

I am devoted to carrying out the Chancellor’s mission, and just as I did in a CU-Boulder Today memo last May, I will be providing additional periodic updates on the activities of my department, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC), as it progresses in expanding and improving upon our Title IX educational and investigative programs. As a part of the next step with OCR, CU-Boulder welcomed OCR representatives on campus earlier this month to meet with administrators and learn more about our programs and practices. Next week, OCR representatives will meet with  student focus groups to hear their views on our programs around the prevention and investigation of sexual violence. In addition, OCR will have open tables in the Visual Arts Complex outside the UMC under the arches by the fountain on the following dates and times: Monday, Sept. 21 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and Thursday, Sept. 24 from 1:30 to 3 p.m., for all interested.

While our Title IX programs are strong and consistently improving, we know that sexual assault and sexual harassment have not been eradicated from our campus community and remain a challenging goal for CU-Boulder. But we are making progress in three main areas: improving the investigation of claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, providing better access to accommodations and support services during an investigation, and increasing and prioritizing our education and prevention efforts.

Here is a summary of what we achieved in the last academic year:

  • Consolidated all investigations whether involving a student, faculty or staff member, into one office;
  • Increased training opportunities for the investigators (including focusing on issues of intimate partner abuse and stalking);
  • Presented at numerous town halls, panels, and workshops (including one at a CU-Boulder screening of the film The Hunting Ground);
  • Collaborated with campus partners to design and promote the “It’s on Us” sexual assault and consent video campaign;
  • Partnered with various community entities to help launch the first Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (“SANE”) in Boulder since 2002;
  • Partnered with all 16 chapters of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) to provide bystander and sexual assault prevention training. The move drew notice from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who tweeted about the program on April 14, referencing a Daily Camera story on the trainings; and
  • Developed a new, system-wide Sexual Misconduct Policy effective July 1, 2015, regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking and related retaliation.

In October, we will conduct a campus-wide sexual misconduct survey for all students that will zero in on the specific experiences, observations and needs of our campus community regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse (domestic and dating violence), and stalking. We will use the results of that survey to better understand the scope of the problem of sexual assault on our campus, and help us improve our prevention and education efforts. I strongly encourage you to participate in this survey. Watch your email for an invitation to participate next month.

For more information on OIEC, including how to report any form of harassment, discrimination or retaliation, visit our website at www.colorado.edu/institutionalequity.

Valerie Simons
Executive Director and Title IX Coordinator
Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance