UVA President Teresa Sullivan on U.S. Office for Civil Rights Compliance Review
As you may be aware, UVA is one of more than 130 institutions under review by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding compliance with Title IX requirements on sexual assault. That review concluded today with the issuance of OCR’s findings regarding UVA and the University’s signing of a resolution agreement.
Since I arrived on Grounds in 2010, addressing the safety of all members of our community has been and remains one of my highest priorities. This commitment is reflected in the significant progress that our faculty, staff and students have made in the areas of training, education, dialogue, awareness and support. We have implemented online education modules on alcohol and sexual violence and have hosted a national conference on the issue of sexual violence. We have launched important bystander awareness campaigns and have added key staff to bolster our response to and resolution of reports. We have engaged our community and provided opportunities for students to partner with the University in addressing culture and climate to assure that all are welcome and feel safe at the University. With these efforts and more, we have taken important steps to promote and maintain a safe learning, living, and working environment for every member of our community.
Over the course of their review, OCR primarily focused on cases that occurred through the 2011-2012 academic year. In their findings, they noted that we provided consistent support and comfort to survivors, and also found our new Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence to be “exemplary” and fully in compliance with Title IX. In addition, OCR identified past deficiencies that were remedied by many of our recent efforts, including the implementation of this Policy. OCR concluded that during the period of their review, the University did not fully comply with Title IX requirements with respect to providing prompt and equitable responses to certain allegations of sexual assault under our 2011 Sexual Misconduct Policy, providing adequate coordination of Title IX responsibilities, and providing adequate distribution of the University’s notice of non-discrimination.
The University’s new Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence directly addresses the concerns OCR raises in their findings. Significant changes reflected in this Policy include the following:
- The Office of Equal Opportunity Programs now provides a centralized response to all potential violations of this policy. This transition created a stand-alone office dedicated to investigating and adjudicating incidences of racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender-based harassment and assault if they occur.
- Key staff have been added to provide enhanced counseling and support to survivors of sexual assault and to provide oversight of our compliance with evolving state and federal legislation.
- Robust training and educational programs have been implemented to better inform our students, faculty, and staff about their responsibilities as active members of our community.
Our current policy is the first university policy to be found compliant by OCR since their 2014 guidance was issued.
Parallel to OCR’s review, last spring the University was one of 27 institutions to voluntarily participate in the Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. The results of this climate survey were released today. The survey results provide an important baseline of information that will enable us to measure and track our efforts as we continue to enhance the safety of our community while promoting a culture of respect at the University. You can learn more about these results by visiting this link.
Harassment and violence in any form have no place in our community. Individual cases, which are often extraordinarily complex, can be debilitating and heart-wrenching for everyone involved. In responding to these incidents, we will continue to provide compassionate support and care to survivors while better ensuring that our adjudication process is adequate, timely, and fair. By signing a resolution agreement with OCR, we have agreed to take important steps to continue to improve our efforts in this area. We have already implemented many of the measures identified in the resolution agreement, and we will continue to work to strengthen our efforts.
Collectively, we have an obligation to promote and maintain a safe and respectful learning, living, and working environment. Nothing is more important. Recognizing that our academic community can thrive only when our students, faculty, and staff are free from the threat of harassment or harm, we are determined to address these issues directly. The safety of our community requires it, and our principles demand it.
– From letter to the University of Virginia community by UVA President Teresa Sullivan