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Updates on Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Title IX Coordinators would like to take this opportunity to highlight some key developments and upcoming initiatives related to the University’s work on sexual misconduct response and prevention.

In January 2014, Northwestern University implemented two new policies: the Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Dating and Domestic Violence and the Policy on Consensual Relationships Between Faculty, Staff, and Students. The Sexual Misconduct Policy provides a detailed definition of consent for sexual activity -- consent must be knowing, voluntary, active, present and ongoing. The policy prohibits sexual misconduct and requires all employees (except those who have a recognized confidentiality privilege) to report sexual misconduct of which they become aware. The Consensual Relationships policy prohibits faculty and staff members from being romantically or sexually involved with anyone over whom they have evaluative authority. That policy also expressly prohibits sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students as well as between coaches and undergraduate students.

These policies reflect the University’s commitment to creating and maintaining a safe and harassment-free environment for all members of the Northwestern community, and we stand behind these and other polices that support this commitment. We also recognize that adopting policies is only a first step; equally important is how we implement them. For that reason, the University continues its ongoing efforts to evaluate and identify ways to improve upon its complaint response procedures, resources and prevention activities to combat sexual misconduct. Some examples of these recent activities and ongoing initiatives include:

  • NEW STUDENT CONDUCT PROCESS. In September, the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution implemented a new student conduct process for all cases, including cases that involve allegations of sexual misconduct by students. This new process is prompt, fair and equitable for all parties involved. Our initial experiences using the new process to address complaints of sexual misconduct have been favorable. We hope that the new process encourages increased reporting by students.
  • NEW FACULTY CONDUCT PROCESS. We are very pleased to announce that on April 1, 2015, the Faculty Senate approved a new faculty discipline process designed for sexual misconduct cases involving faculty, as part of the 2015 revisions to the Faculty Handbook. The new process will utilize a sanctioning panel comprised of faculty and administrators to determine appropriate sanctions in cases where the Title IX Coordinator determines, based on an investigation, that a major sanction may be warranted. The new process was designed to comport with best practices and federal guidance.
  • CARE IS GROWING! The University’s Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE), a confidential advocacy resource for students who have experienced sexual misconduct, is expanding. CARE has hired an Assistant Director, Erin Clark, who started March 30; CARE also will be hiring for a newly posted position, Coordinator of Men’s Engagement, in the coming months. These new resources will bolster Northwestern’s sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response efforts.
  • NEW TITLE IX INVESTIGATOR HIRED. The University has hired a full-time Title IX investigator, Colleen Johnston, who started April 1. Ms. Johnston, who joins us with an impressive background of investigating sexual harassment and discrimination complaints, will conduct sexual harassment and sexual violence investigations for both the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention and the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. We are very pleased to be gaining this new resource to help us investigate sexual misconduct complaints and to assist in the University’s outreach and education efforts for students, faculty and staff.
  • APRIL CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY. A University working group has analyzed the available options for a student campus climate survey about sexual assault and dating/domestic violence, selected a vendor and will be emailing this survey to Northwestern students this month to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The results of this survey will help guide the University’s continued efforts to improve sexual misconduct prevention.

In addition to these developments, there are other important projects the University is undertaking for the future:

  • NEW SEXUAL MISCONDUCT WEBSITE. The Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, Student Affairs and the Title IX Committee are working to design a new sexual misconduct website that will be more user-friendly and contain relevant information in one readily accessible location. Content will include a Title IX FAQ document that will feature answers to common questions about Title IX and how the University handles complaints, as well as guidance for complainants, respondents, witnesses and support persons about their rights in University proceedings. Students are providing input in the development of this new website.
  • POLICY REVIEW. We are carefully evaluating new regulations under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that will take effect July 1, 2015, to determine what changes may be required to our existing policies, procedures and practices to ensure we are addressing the important concepts in VAWA and maintaining compliance with all applicable laws. We also are looking at ways to present our policies and procedures in the most user-friendly manner possible.
  • EDUCATION. A working group is preparing comprehensive sexual harassment and misconduct training for a broader audience of University stakeholders. We plan to roll out online training on sexual misconduct for faculty, staff and graduate students in the fall.
  • AWARENESS. We are already looking ahead to the next academic year and are developing a new awareness campaign with print and electronic materials that will further increase awareness about Northwestern’s resources and information on topics such as: how to report sexual misconduct, what to do if you’ve been a victim, how to support others and how to intervene safely if you observe sexual misconduct.

There are a number of staff, faculty and students who are working to shape or support these initiatives, and we want to hear from you. If you have ideas for how we can provide relevant information to students, faculty and staff, or if you want to schedule training on sexual misconduct, bystander intervention and/or prevention for your Northwestern group or organization, or if you just have a comment you’d like to share about this work, please email us at: We look forward to hearing your ideas. For information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month programs and activities, please see


Title IX Coordinator
Joan Slavin
Director, University Sexual Harassment Prevention Office and Special Assistant to the Provost 

Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for sexual misconduct complaints against students)
Tara Sullivan
Director, Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution 

Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for sex discrimination complaints)
Roberto Sanabria
Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Access 

Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for athletics compliance issues)
Janna Blais
Associate Athletic Director, Department of Athletics and Recreation

Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for global safety and security)
Julie Friend
Director, Global Safety and Security

Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for NU-Q)
Kathryn Symank
Chief Operations Officer, Northwestern University in Qatar

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