From an early age, Valerie Simons made equality a priority.
“My professional and personal background have led to a firmly held conviction that ending discrimination and harassment in all forms, including but not limited to the areas of sexual assault and harassment, is a critical and shared mission,” she told the CU Board of Regents at its Sept. 11 meeting in the University Memorial Center at CU-Boulder.
Simons, CU-Boulder’s new director of institutional equity and compliance and Title IX coordinator, last week updated the regents on crucial steps that have been taken to better provide a safe and inclusive environment on campus, including:
- Consolidating investigative teams for complaints of discrimination and harassment so that one team handles all matters, whether concerning faculty, staff or students.
- Building a platform that includes communications from the chancellor and Simons, she said, “to ensure our culture and climate will reflect our values of safety and inclusiveness throughout the campus.”
- Convening a student task force to address the first White House report to protect students from sexual assault and provide recommendations to the chancellor.
“But we can and must do more,” Simons said, adding that CU-Boulder will be working on a three-pronged approach to address claims of discrimination and harassment:
- Reviewing and implementing additional recommendations by an external audit conducted the summer of 2013 of CU-Boulder’s investigative policies and procedures. The reviewers found the university compliant with federal law, but Simons said extra steps are being taken to ensure best practices and policies.
- Hiring additional staff to provide accommodations and interim remedies for people involved in investigations, and coordinating with support services on campuses including the offices of student conduct, victim assistance, counseling and psychological services, student legal services, faculty, staff and assistance programs, and others.
- Building on existing education and prevention programs for incoming students, faculty and staff, particularly in the areas of bystander intervention programs; and examining train-the-trainer models to reach every facet of the CU-Boulder community.
Simons reports directly to CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano and has campuswide oversight of all complaints of discrimination that are investigated through the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.
DiStefano told the board he expects CU-Boulder to become a national model for compliance.
“Universities across the country are confronting the issue of discrimination and harassment on campus,” he said. “And at CU-Boulder, furthering the culture of safety is one of my highest priorities.”
Simons’ hiring came on the recommendation of the external review of CU-Boulder’s compliance with Title IX, and after CU-Boulder was earlier this spring included in the Office of Civil Rights’ list of 55 American colleges and universities under investigation for possible violations of Title IX violations.