Title IX compliance, efforts to reduce sexual harassment and assault outlined

Chancellors stress importance of training, prevention

The University of Colorado Board of Regents on June 26 reinforced its commitment to Title IX compliance, including ending sexual harassment and sexual assault on its campuses and working with victims to ensure speedy and fair investigations into allegations of misconduct.

“There’s no greater priority for the university than the safety of our students; to make sure there's a safe learning environment,” said Michael Carrigan, board chair, at the board’s meeting at CU Denver. “There's an increasing concern nationally about sexual assault in particular, but also student safety generally.”

At its April meeting, the board asked for chancellors to report on steps being taken by each campus to ensure the safety of its students. Two days later, the Department of Justice announced that CU-Boulder and CU Denver were included on a list of 55 campuses under investigation for potential Title IX violations.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano outlined processes underway to improve Title IX compliance, victim support and prevention.

“CU-Boulder began a review of its responsibilities a year ago,” he said, noting the university underwent an external review of its efforts. “The reviewers liked our processes and, as we asked them to do, identified areas where we further could strengthen our processes.”

The first step was the hiring of Valerie Simons, director of institutional equity and compliance. Simons will serve as Title IX officer. But the process will continue to evolve, he said.

“Prevention training must happen many places at many times,” DiStefano said. While much of the training is focused on incoming freshmen during orientation, all the chancellors acknowledged that the information needs to be reinforced throughout the campus communities the year.

“We're committed to creating and maintaining a positive learning, working and living environment for our campus community,” DiStefano said.

UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said she ultimately is responsible for prevention and support.

“I hold myself responsible for the environment on the campus and accountability,” she said, adding all faculty staff and students are also responsible for student safety and support. “It is important that we talk about this very, very seriously. “

CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman said Title IX requirements are evolving, and it’s imperative that campuses keep on top of what is expected of them.

“We’re looking at a moving target. I don’t know if any of us know where that line is going to be in the months and years ahead,” Elliman said. “Where this is going to line up in the future, heaven alone knows. We need to be prepared.”

Steps being taken across the campuses include ongoing training of students, including behavior and access to resources, changing the culture on the campuses and bystander training so that people can recognize incidents and react responsibly.

Regent Kyle Hybl stressed the need to consistently remind the campus communities that programs and processes are in place and encourage them to seek assistance and support, suggesting text messages or other means of communication periodically to reinforce the available resources.

Sue Sharkey, board vice chair, asked campuses to make an effort to examine ways to shorten the investigative processes to find a resolution for the victims and the accused.