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Protecting Students, Faculty, Staff From Sexual Misconduct

New Northwestern policy, training on Title IX, Clery Act, Violence Against Women Act

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Strengthening Northwestern University’s efforts to protect students, faculty and staff from sexual misconduct, the University today announced a newly revised policy and new training to help ensure a secure, productive environment for the entire community.

Northwestern strives to protect all members of its community, and the revised policy underscores the University’s commitment to creating a campus climate in which people understand their responsibilities to help prevent sexual misconduct -- including sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. 

“Northwestern is committed to fostering a learning, working and living environment where all members of our community can thrive, free from sexual misconduct,” President Morton Schapiro said in a message to the community.

“We urge all our students, faculty and staff to work together on this -- to understand their roles, raise awareness and use all means possible to help us develop a culture of respect where sexual misconduct is not tolerated,” he said.

The revised policy continues Northwestern’s proactive work in recent years to prevent sexual violence, sexual harassment and sex discrimination, provide prompt, fair and impartial proceedings to address complaints, and offer compassionate services and resources to help survivors. 

The University also today released the results of the 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct.

On Sept. 10, Northwestern introduced the revised Policy on Sexual Misconduct, updating its 2014 policy. The revised policy is a comprehensive document with updated procedures and resources regarding sexual misconduct. It also includes an expanded statement reaffirming the University’s commitment to academic freedom and free expression.

This fall, Northwestern also published improved procedures for sexual misconduct complaint resolution, which incorporate emerging best practices in the areas of sexual violence prevention and response.

Other procedures, resources and training Northwestern is unveiling this fall include:

  • A comprehensive new website on Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention launched Sept. 10 with updated information created with student input:
  • A new, online, educational course for staff, faculty and graduate and professional students, which will be rolled out in phases for each group starting this fall.
  • Expanded resources for counseling and advocacy for community members affected by sexual misconduct, as well as bolstering awareness, prevention and response efforts.
  • A new resource booklet published and posted this fall designed to help survivors of sexual misconduct, titled “You Have Options. Northwestern Can Help.”
  • A two-page resource guide for faculty and staff on how to respond to a disclosure of sexual misconduct.
  • Results released Sept. 28 from the Campus Climate Survey of students addressing sexual misconduct experience, attitudes and awareness of services at Northwestern, which was conducted in May.
  • A new training program, Support Starts Here, by the Center for Awareness, Response and Education, that gives faculty, staff and students skills to effectively support survivors and create a community where they can be heard, supported and referred in meaningful ways.
  • As part of Northwestern’s Study Abroad Guide for students, Information and Options for Survivors of Sexual Misconduct Abroad provides support to overseas survivors.

This intensified effort at Northwestern University reflects a broader national movement to change the culture that has often allowed sexual violence to occur on college campuses and elsewhere. Further, the University is being responsive to people on campus who requested more information and training on this issue.

As in the prior version of the policy, all faculty, staff, student employees and non-employees with teaching or supervisory authority (except those who have a recognized confidentiality privilege) are required to report sexual misconduct of which they become aware.

It is the policy of Northwestern to comply with federal law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act.

Northwestern policy prohibits sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. It is the responsibility of all staff, faculty and students to understand these expectations. The new online course, which will be launched this fall, will be an important tool for faculty, staff and graduate and professional students to help them understand how to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. 

“We are proud of how Northwestern has responded to this issue in recent years,” said Joan Slavin, director of sexual harassment prevention and Title IX coordinator of the University. “However, as long as incidents of sexual misconduct and discrimination occur on our campus, we can do even more.

“These new policies and training will empower our faculty, staff and graduate and professional students to do more to help us combat sexual misconduct,” she observed. “Our procedures are designed to ensure fairness, impartiality, compassion and respect for all parties.”

Provost Daniel Linzer appealed to Northwestern community members to think about the importance of this effort in terms of their own individual safety as well as the protection and well-being of others.

“This effort reflects the core values of this University,” Linzer observed. “It’s about doing the right thing for our community, raising awareness about how we all must look out for one other and help keep everyone safe. 

“The online education is an essential component of our efforts to educate our community members about how to protect one another and themselves. It’s expected that we all will take this training. It is for everyone’s good,” Linzer added. “Members of the Northwestern community are expected to interact with one other with respect and consideration.”

New undergraduates receive training through an online course and live interactive training upon arrival on campus.

As universities across the country work to change the national culture on this issue, many students at Northwestern have taken the “It’s On Us” pledge to end sexual violence at Northwestern, vowing to be part of the solution instead of the problem. See the Northwestern Athletics video and the undergraduate Associated Student Government (ASG) video in support of this national movement. 

A more detailed look at Northwestern’s recent accomplishments, new policies and ongoing initiatives follows:

  • REVISED SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICY AND PROCEDURES. On Sept. 10, Northwestern published its updated Policy on Sexual Misconduct. This revision of the 2014 policy is a comprehensive and user-friendly document containing policy, procedures and resources regarding sexual misconduct. Helpful information is included about reporting options and resources available to individuals who report experiencing sexual misconduct, including information on seeking medical treatment; consulting with confidential on-campus or off-campus advocates; preserving evidence; filing reports with law enforcement and/or the University; and accessing interim protective measures and accommodations.

In addition to the revised policy, Northwestern has continued to improve procedures for complaint resolution. These improvements reflect emerging best practices in the areas of sexual violence prevention and response to incidents. They also ensure that fairness, impartiality, compassion and respect are built into the processes by which the University addresses all incidents of sexual misconduct, and they ensure that University policies and practices conform with new legal requirements under the Violence Against Women Act. 

  • ADVOCATES AND COUNSELORS. Northwestern provides free confidential counseling and advocacy for any community member affected by sexual misconduct. Northwestern’s Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE), a resource for students who have experienced sexual misconduct, has recently expanded. CARE has hired a coordinator of response services, an assistant director and a coordinator of men’s engagement. These resources will bolster the University’s sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response efforts. Northwestern has other confidential resources available to faculty and staff impacted by sexual misconduct, including The Women’s Center, CAPS, and NU Life Matters.
  • NEW SEXUAL MISCONDUCT WEBSITE. Northwestern’s new website on sexual misconduct is live: The site contains new content and user-friendly features. Students provided key input into the design and content of this new website. This website will make it easier for students, faculty and staff to quickly find all the information and resources they may need. Community members are encouraged to check out this new resource.
  • PREVENTION AND EDUCATION. Northwestern’s online course, “Preventing Sexual Misconduct and Sex Discrimination,” starts this fall. This educational module on Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act will provide faculty, staff and graduate and professional students with crucial information they need to know in order to help prevent sexual misconduct and respond properly if they receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct from a student. The Northwestern community’s completion of the training is an essential component of the University’s efforts to combat sexual misconduct on campus and help protect our faculty, staff and students. Stay tuned for more information on completing this valuable course.

Northwestern provides many other training programs and workshops addressing sexual violence, including training for all new undergraduates about sexual violence and the Step UP! training program, which educates University community members on how they can actively and safely intervene to prevent sexual violence, bias incidents and hazing.

  • CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY. In May, Northwestern conducted a campus climate survey on sexual misconduct. All students were invited to take the survey. A working group comprised of students, faculty and staff analyzed the data over the summer, and their report is being shared with the Northwestern community. This report is intended to start a conversation on how the data can guide the University’s continued efforts to improve sexual misconduct prevention and response.
  • NEW PRINT RESOURCES. This fall, Northwestern published a new written resource booklet designed to assist survivors of sexual misconduct, titled “You Have Options. Northwestern Can Help: Resource Guide on Sexual Misconduct and Title IX.” This booklet, also available on the sexual misconduct website at, clearly outlines the options and resources available to survivors, including the ways Northwestern can help. Other new written resources available to the Northwestern community include a Title IX FAQ and a guide for faculty and staff on responding to disclosures of sexual misconduct.
STUDY ABROAD GUIDE OPTIONS. Northwestern’s commitment to student safety is not confined within its Evanston, Chicago and Doha, Qatar, campus boundaries. A new student resource from the Study Abroad Office at Northwestern is Information and Options for Survivors of Sexual Misconduct Abroad. The Web resource comports as much as possible with campus-based policies and procedures in order also to provide support to survivors studying abroad. In fact, Northwestern is now one of a handful of institutions nationwide that have published specific information, protocols and resources for overseas survivors.

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