A UO advisory board has begun meeting as part of the annual review of how campus adjudicates cases of sexual misconduct and prohibited discrimination and harassment.
According to Darci Heroy, associate vice president for civil rights, the advisory board will make recommendations on how to change the university’s standard operating procedures on sexual misconduct in light of both evolving national best practices and possible federal rule changes. The effort is part of the UO Title IX coordinator’s commitment to transparency and stakeholder involvement.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is in the process of making changes to the regulatory guidance it uses to enforce Title IX, the federal law related to gender equity in education. The proposed rules could have significant effects on how universities respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
In February, President Michael H. Schill joined other Oregon public university presidents to comment on the proposal. Heroy, who is also the UO’s Title IX coordinator, joined other university Title IX officials from Oregon in submitting separate comments.
“The proposed rules have left universities across the country with a lot of unanswered questions that will not be fully addressed until these rules are finalized this September,” Heroy said. “We anticipate there could be some very difficult choices to be made depending on what the office of civil rights or the state does in responsive or preemptive legislation. We want to be proactive about addressing these issues for the benefit of our students and community.”
Heroy and the Dean of Students Kris Winter convened the advisory board this spring. The group is comprised of students and faculty, staff and community members with expertise in prevention, Title IX investigations, conflict resolution, residence life, law and student affairs.
The charge of the board is to review the UO’s current adjudication procedures in depth, with the goal of providing concrete recommendations for any changes to the process, Heroy said. The recommendations will be presented to Winter and Heroy by the end of summer, with any resulting changes drafted to be effective by fall term 2019.
“Among the issues the advisory group will consider is creating more clarity about the options for people to go through informal or alternative complaint processes,” Heroy said. “A possible result of the proposed federal rules could be that it becomes much more burdensome for people to go through formal Title IX processes. Because of this, we need to make sure that survivors still get the support and resources they need, and that individuals can still participate in accountability processes that are meaningful, fair and potentially provide greater restorative options.”
The advisory board will seek campus and community comments prior to the university making any final procedural changes. Anyone who would like to provide comments can get connected with the advisory board by emailing their contact information and request to email@example.com.