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, email@example.com. Check out the website for this information at www.udel.edu/knowmore .