After working as a civil rights attorney for 16 years—including as a U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney representing the federal government in dozens of cases around the country—Valerie Simons transitioned to CU Boulder, where she has led Title IX compliance since 2014.
Now, as associate vice chancellor and Title IX coordinator for the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC), she has the opportunity to share her hard-won knowledge with the entire state as the chair of the Colorado Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee.
Simons is among 11 individuals serving on the state committee, which will issue recommendations on new processes designed to align with Title IX rule changes expected this year.
In December, Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, lauded the “wealth of experience and expertise” brought by Simons and others. Simons said she hoped the experience would enable her “to contribute to a statewide effort dedicated to fostering safe learning environments free of sex-based discrimination, violence and harassment and ensuring equitable processes and procedures.”
Enacted in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational settings that receive federal funds. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce rule changes to the pioneering law regarding the adjudication of sexual misconduct cases on college campuses and in K-12 schools. The new regulations would impact the entire CU system of four campuses and its systemwide Sexual Misconduct Policy, Simons said.
Once issued, system administration officials, in collaboration with campus Title IX officers, will review the new regulations to determine what changes might be necessary to CU’s policies and procedures to ensure compliance.
“Regardless of what happens,” Simons said, “the university remains committed to ensuring a safe, nondiscriminatory environment and fair processes for all parties.”
As CU Boulder’s chief Title IX executive, Simons leads a team of investigators, educators, and support service experts with decades of experience who work to ensure the university is in compliance with federal rules and university policy on protected-class discrimination and harassment and sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse and stalking.
OIEC and partner offices, as demonstrated in OIEC’s most recent annual report, have implemented a series of innovative programs to enhance and expand the university’s response to sexual misconduct (including harassment and assault) and protected-class harassment and discrimination, and to educate students, faculty and staff.
At CU Boulder, protected classes include race, color, national origin, pregnancy, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran (military service) status, political affiliation and political philosophy.
Other achievements include the implementation of a tailored campus climate and sexual misconduct survey that provides the campus with a wealth of data to inform areas of success and improvement of the campus and to ensure an inclusive campus environment.
The office became the first university in the country to implement mandatory Bystander Intervention training for all incoming first-year and transfer students, and each year, Simons’ staff members conduct hundreds of trainings for thousands of students, faculty and staff.
Her team’s creative force led to the creation of the Don’t Ignore It campaign, which includes a public awareness campaign and a website that provides information about options for reporting concerns on campus, support resources on and off campus, and skills for helping others and addressing concerns.
OIEC also works closely with CU Athletics on gameday videos encouraging good fan behavior and other educational initiatives and awareness campaigns, and provides workshops and presentations to fraternities, sororities and other student groups and campus organizations.
“Education is a key component of what we do every day,” Simons said of her team’s work. “The more we know about Title IX and the power behind the law, the more we are able to create a safe academic environment for everyone who studies and works on our campus.”