Title IX a focus of CU legal team

O’Rourke updates Faculty Council on University Counsel activity

The evolution of Title IX requirements and other federal compliance issues remain in focus for the University of Colorado’s legal counsel and the Title IX coordinator, the Faculty Council heard during its Sept. 24 meeting at 1800 Grant St.

During his update to the governance group, Patrick O’Rourke, vice president of University Counsel and secretary of the Board of Regents, said Title IX is one of the greatest legal issues affecting all campuses at the moment.

“We have been looking at this very carefully,” he said. “There are two sets of competing demands: There is a lot of pressure from the federal government related to Title IX and sexual assault issues. … At the same time, there is a lot of pressure also in the legal system.” He noted recent sexual assault cases involving students at other institutions where courts determined either that investigative processes were flawed or where the outcome was deemed to have been predetermined.

Earlier this year, CU’s sexual misconduct policy was updated for the first time since 2012, reflecting new federal, legislative and regulatory requirements and guidance, as well as adding clarity and responsibilities for employees across the system. The revisions to the policy – which applies to all faculty, staff and students – include an updated definition of sexual misconduct that specifies intimate partner abuse and gender-based stalking.

Title IX is just one aspect of compliance, and compliance issues in general are receiving great attention from the campus administrations and legal counsel across the system, O’Rourke said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that higher education is one of the more heavily regulated industries in the United States,” he said. “We’ve got tremendous compliance obligations across the institution, and we’re trying to figure out how to best manage that. I’m working with the campuses and others now in trying to figure out what’s the right structure.

“Ultimately, my job is to be able to report up to the Board of Regents that, yes, we have effective compliance policies in place.”

One work load is lighter at the moment, O’Rourke said, calling it good news.

“Litigation is actually down,” he said. “It’s nice when we don’t have lawsuits absorbing our time and energy.”

Looking ahead, O’Rourke said he was working with the Board of Regents and campus constituents to improve the 130-plus Regent laws and policies, some of which haven’t been updated in a long time.

“We want to make them better, more user-friendly, and use gap analysis to determine where we might need more or less,” O’Rourke said. “One example is a policy originally passed in 1959 that prohibited our athletic teams from playing against institutions that still segregate teams based on race. With the passage of federal laws prohibiting that discrimination, we probably don’t need a separate policy anymore.

“I want there to be consistency: Regent law should be consistent with Regent policy, which should be consistent with university policy.”

In other business at last week’s Faculty Council meeting:

  • Scott Temares, Elevate program director, gave an update on the project, an upgrade of financial and human resources software to improve how CU manages and recruits talent, pays employees, handles transactions and more. The project is in training, education and gathering of feedback, with go-live planned for early November.
  • The Faculty Council’s annual retreat is set for Oct. 14 at the Warwick Hotel in Denver, Chair John McDowell said. He asked council members to suggest topics for the evening.
  • Gloria Main, the council’s representative of the CU Retired Faculty Association (CURFA), said the group is pursuing outreach opportunities this year. For instance, the members look to be more inclusive of retired faculty from other universities who might want to attend the CURFA lecture series.
  • Melinda Piket-May, chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said the group is considering forming a committee of those who work on campus and have children who are students on the campus. She’s gauging interest at other campuses.
  • Tamara Terzian, chair of the council’s Personnel Committee, said the group is looking to raise awareness about the university’s Faculty Housing Assistance Program.

The council’s next regular meeting is set for noon-3 p.m. Oct. 22 at 1800 Grant St.