Director’s Corner- October 2017

Director’s Corner- October 2017

As many of you know, beyond a written policy, the university has been working hard on matters pertaining to sexual misconduct not only on our campus, but working state-wide with other constituents.  I think it is important to note that at UD, we have created a climate that encourages reporting which is seen in an increased number of reports over the recent years.

We have established a brand for sexual misconduct, kNOw MORE, that raises awareness about sexual misconduct focusing our efforts on students as well as our employees.  Student Life leads the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education (SAPE) Committee which plans programming and events to further educate our student population in this area.  Finally, we have been working with our campus partners and Greek life to educate chapter leaders on being an active bystander.  This has also been incorporated into this year’s First Year Experience curriculum!

In light of the recent comments from the Department of Education, the university strives to conduct a fair and equitable process for all parties involved in matters of sexual misconduct and I believe our policy reflects that balance.

Director’s Corner- September 2017

Director’s Corner

Welcome back to another exciting year at UD!  We have been working hard striving towards inclusive excellence during the spring and summer months.  Read what we’ve been up to below.

I am pleased to announce the University of Delaware has adopted a revised non-discrimination policy that applies to all members of the University community and went into effect Aug. 1, 2017.  The policy expresses opposition to discrimination and harassment and prohibits such behavior by anyone on UD’s property, and it assists the University to comply with federal and state civil rights laws in relation to such misconduct.

The new policy brings together the resources, reporting mechanisms and resolution processes for students, faculty, staff, visitors and vendors. It centralizes information and compliance — which was previously located in various policies and departments — to one office on campus: the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI).  In addition, the new document outlines the procedure for investigating student cases, which has changed from a full hearing to one-on-one guidance from a trained professional, mirroring the sexual misconduct policy.

The revisions to UD’s policy were made in consultation with a committee charged by myself and Dean of Students, José Riera. The group consisted of University faculty, students and leaders from various units, including Residence Life and Housing, UD Police, Athletics, Center for Black Culture, Office of Student Conduct, Office for International Students and Scholars, Human Resources and Graduate and Professional Education. The President’s Executive Committee approved the policy.

In addition, the University adopted three policies this past academic year that OEI now manages, in an effort to ensure the protection of minors – individuals who have not reached their 18th birthday – while attending programs, camps, and other events held on the University of Delaware property or in University facilities.  The policies are as follows:

  • Minors on campus (sponsored or organized by the University): This policy is applicable for programs sponsored or organized by University employees, volunteers, and/or organizations on behalf of or in the name of the University.
  • Minors on campus (sponsored or organized by third parties): This policy is applicable for programs sponsored or organized by third parties.
  • Reporting of suspected child abuse: This policy addresses the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.

Each program is required to register with the University and have adequate sign-in/sign-out procedures and an appropriate number of adult supervisors based on the ages of the participants. Requirements for the staff and volunteers include background checks and training.  For more information about these important policies, please contact Jessica Rickmond, Associate Director, in our office.

I am pleased to announce the updated Statement of Respect & Responsibility as seen here on our Values website.  This statement was a result of the hard work from the members of the Respect & Civility Committee charged by the VP, Diversity with oversight from OEI.   The final membership of that committee is outlined below:

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The members of the Respect Committee include:

Communications & Public Affairs Holly Norton
Disability Support Services Anne Jannarone
Equity and Inclusion Jennifer Daniels
  Jessica Rickmond*
Facilities, Real Estate & Auxiliary Services Sheila Boyle
  Jo Alice Casapulla
  Banlusack Phommachanh
Graduate Student Senate Cesar Caro
Human Resources Patty Fogg*
Information Technology Kate Webster
LGBTQ Caucus Karla Bell
The Libraries Julie Brewer
Student Government Association Matthew Rojas
Student Life Katie Rizzo
UDPD Jeff Evans

*Co-chairs

Finally, it is my hope for those that live, work and learn in our community to treat one another with dignity, respect and civility at all times.  Working in the office of equity and inclusion, I see too many situations that result in matters of us simply not being kind to one another, not respectful to each other and not civil to those that work and learn with us.  As the esteemed Mayo Angelou stated, “When we know better, we do better.”  I know that we as Blue Hens can and will rise to make this year a happy, healthy and safe 2017-2018.

Sincerely,

Susan L. Groff, Ed. D.

Remember the Sexual Misconduct Policy? It’s working!

The University of Delaware is committed to protecting students’ and employees’ civil rights in their working and learning environments.  Title VII and Title IX, federal statutes that prohibit sex discrimination in these environments, have been in existence since 1964 and 1972 respectively.  Did you know that the enforcement of Title VII is managed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and applies to the employment setting?  And that the enforcement of Title IX is managed by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) housed within the U.S. Department of Education? Did you know that the university used these two federal pieces of legislation, as well as other federal mandates, to inform our Sexual Misconduct Policy which was recently updated in July 2015?

The university commitment is reflected in the sexual misconduct policy which addresses complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking.   The policy applies to all faculty, students and staff and is managed and enforced by the Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI).  OEI is in the midst of updating the remainder of our non-discrimination policies to better address complaints of discriminatory harassment based on protected classes.  More to come on that topic soon!

The past few years our federal government has cracked down on college campuses to better address complaints of sex discrimination, which was defined as sexual harassment and further clarified in 2011 to include sexual assault.  With that said, it is not surprising to learn from OCR’s recently published annual report citing the number of complaints filed within the last year “skyrocketed to 16,720…”.  The total number of complaints made to OCR based on sex discrimination were 7,747 compared to 2015’s 2,939.  The total number of complaints filed with the EEOC for the employment side of sexual harassment for FY2015 was 12,573.  If you follow the university’s Title IX incident reports, you will notice that there was a spike in reporting in 2014 and 2015 (~200) compared to year’s prior (~50-60).  So why make a big deal about reporting?  Well, my friends, reporting matters and here’s why.

For starters, reporting helps complainants.  If an individual reports an incident to OEI, be it a third party report or a self-report, we can offer the complainant resources and help the individual connect to those resources while also explaining their rights and options in these matters.  This is very important because often-times, complainants do not know where to go, what happens with the information, or more importantly, how to get help.  Reporting to OEI does not automatically trigger an investigation.  In fact, in most cases an investigation does not ensue unless the complainant chooses to do so.  Secondly, if reporting is happening, and we see a trend developing (such as a repeat offender, a location, a group, etc.), then the university may be able to move forward with an investigation, making the situation safer for all without the complainant having to make the complaint.

We continue to see an increase in reporting.  This semester (Fall 2016) we received 136 reports compared to last fall’s 110. In these numbers, it is important to keep in mind that not all reports made to the office rise to the level of a prohibited offense as defined by our policy.  The good news is our students are learning about the sexual misconduct information being provided to the UD community!  In spring 2015, we conducted a campus climate survey that was administered to all of our undergraduates.  The survey confirmed what we already knew – our students did not know much about our policies, practices or the resources available to them in these cases.  During the fall semester of 2016, the office had more students self-report these matters and get connected to the resources than they have in the last two years.  This is a victory because we want to ensure that complainants are getting the help that they need.

We have conducted more investigations this fall (13), then we did last fall (0).  The policy is working.  The process is working.  This is not to say we are perfect, because we are not, but we have made significant strides in the area of Title IX and sexual misconduct and we continue to look for ways to effectively reach all in our community with this information.  The university will not tolerate this behavior from anyone and when it is brought to our attention you need to have the confidence that it is addressed.

Employees, as a friendly reminder, are obligated to report any incident of sexual misconduct directly to the university’s Title IX coordinator unless you have been identified by OEI as a confidential resource:  Dr. Susan L. Groff, 305 Hullihen Hall, 302.831.8063, groff@udel.edu.  Check out the website for this information at www.udel.edu/knowmore .

Be “Humble and Kind” to all in Our Community

Did you ever listen to, and/or watch the video of, Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind?  While I’m not particularly a fan of country music I did perk up to listen to it when my husband and I were in the car traveling home from somewhere, and he reached over to the radio to turn up the volume stating that he liked this song. I was intrigued to learn why he like the song so much so I listened closely to the words.  It moved me and I want to share with you why.

The song and the video sparked a myriad of thoughts and feelings for me and within me.  It made me think about the state of our UD community, the state of our country, and the state of our world today as it pertains to diversity, inclusion, respect and civility.  The video portrayed the gamut of human differences from the color of our skin to our religion to our age to our physical and mental capabilities constantly reminding me that we are human – we are all the same – wanting and needing the same things in this very short life that we get to live.  It sparked memories of my own personal life events reinforcing the need for me to continue, and consistently, be compassionate to others, to respect those that are different from me, to help those less fortunate than myself, to recognize my privilege and to defend those that cannot do so for themselves.  It reminded me of the critical need to “be humble and kind”.

The song also reminded me of the values I was taught when I was younger, oh so long ago – it’s simple really – ‘don’t cheat, lie or steal” – say “please” and “thank you” – “open the door for others” – work hard as there are “no free rides” and while you will achieve success you can “show your pride”, but please, be “humble and kind”……. “sleep with someone you love – I love you ain’t no pick up line” –  “help the next person in line”……always “be humble and kind”……

It sounds simple and easy, doesn’t it? Yet, time and time again we hear stories that contradict these values and, specifically, devalue human life and differences.  So, my fellow Blue Hens – take a look at the video – and see how, if at all, it makes you feel.  Think about how to make the University of Delaware a better place – a place where we can all be “humble and kind” to one another despite our differences – and a better place than you found it when you arrived to UD as a student or employee.

To listen to the song and view the video, please click on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzNHuGqoMc

Best,

Sue