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Northwestern enhances Title IX resources

Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention website updated, remains key resource

EVANSTON - Northwestern University is implementing a variety of enhancements this fall to strengthen existing policies, procedures and efforts under Title IX to protect students, faculty and staff from sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.

Starting this academic year, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office is responsible for handling all sexual misconduct matters University-wide. This includes sexual misconduct complaints filed against students, previously handled in the Office of Student Conduct. The office also will soon move to a new location at 1800 Sherman Ave.

The changes include an updated University website on these issues, a revised policy on sexual misconduct, online training for all new employees and a new complaint resolution process -- as well as an education effort that offers a new video and launches a new poster campaign.

“Northwestern is committed to creating a safe and inclusive community,” said Joan Slavin, Northwestern’s Title IX coordinator, in an email to students outlining the changes. “We are working continuously to strengthen the University’s sexual misconduct response and prevention efforts as well as services for those who have experienced sexual misconduct.”  

The University has worked over the summer to revise the current “Policy on Sexual Misconduct.” The updated policy includes additional detail on Northwestern’s definition of consent, an enhanced provision regarding retaliation and an updated list of confidential resources. 

The new Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process details how reports of sexual misconduct are investigated and resolved. The University has hired a second Title IX investigator and will soon hire a deputy Title IX coordinator dedicated to supporting students and enhancing the University’s existing protections.

In addition, the Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention website has been updated and remains an excellent all-in-one resource about sexual misconduct. Also, new print and video resources about sexual misconduct have been developed, including:

  • A new poster about options and reporting of sexual misconduct that will hang in bathroom stalls around campus this fall. The poster provides a visual summary of options for students who have experienced sexual misconduct.
  • A new short Title IX video, “9 Messages About Title IX,” on the website taps the voices of students, faculty and staff on campus explaining the importance of Title IX.

In an ongoing effort to help create a safe, productive campus environment, the new resources and enhancements to practices are intended to improve responses, communicate options and strengthen training and effectiveness in fighting sexual misconduct.

Northwestern continuously strives to protect all members of its community, and these enhancements underscore the University’s ongoing 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. 

A working group has been hard at work over the summer revising the “Policy on Sexual Misconduct.” The revision incorporates changes based on the new Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, as well as other improvements to the language and structure of the policy.

In May 2015, Northwestern launched its first student campus climate survey on sexual misconduct. The survey contained questions related to sexual misconduct incidence, attitudes and awareness of resources. A report on the results of the survey was published a year ago. Now, a June 20 report, Campus Climate Survey: From Recommendations to Actions, is available summarizing recommendations and key action steps Northwestern is taking to strengthen ongoing sexual misconduct response, resources and prevention initiatives.

These recommendations and action steps are part of a continuing effort by Northwestern to promote a safe and supportive campus for all members of the community. The Title IX Coordinating Committee, the Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence (CCSV) Climate Survey Working Group and Associated Student Government’s “It’s on Us” Committee each submitted recommendations that contributed to this report.

Other enhancements to strengthen University policies on preventing sexual misconduct include the following:

  • A new Complaint Resolution Process for the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office’s centralized handling of sexual misconduct cases has been developed. The new process details how reports of sexual misconduct against faculty, staff, students and third parties are investigated and resolved.
  • A new email address, TitleIXReport@northwestern.edu, has been established for filing reports of sexual misconduct. This is an alternative to using the online reporting form on the website. An immediate auto-response email with information about resources and options will be sent in response to reports filed electronically.
  • The rollout of the new online sexual misconduct prevention training to staff, faculty, and graduate and professional students that took place last winter -- supplementing existing educational materials efforts -- was extremely successful, with 95 percent of staff and faculty and 88 percent of graduate and professional students completing the course. More than 28,000 people have taken the new online training, and this digital course is an important part of Northwestern’s program to continue to help keep students, faculty and staff safe and free from sexual misconduct and discrimination. 
  • Since the initial rollout of the training, new faculty and staff hires -- as well as entering graduate and professional students -- also are being asked to complete the course. 
  • In addition, this fall, staff and faculty at Northwestern’s Qatar campus are taking the course.

Northwestern University continues its commitment to maintaining a living, working and educational environment free from sexual harassment, sexual violence and sex discrimination. It remains the policy of Northwestern to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibiting discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) in the University’s educational programs and activities.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances; the use or threatened use of sexual favors as a basis for academic or employment decisions; conduct that creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive academic or working environment; conduct that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance; and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to limit a person's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity. Sexual violence, including sexual assault, is a prohibited form of sexual harassment.

Campus community members are encouraged to remember that the Center for Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE) provides confidential support and advocacy services for students who are survivors of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence or stalking, as well as for their friends. CARE also provides numerous programs and opportunities for students to get involved. A list of numerous confidential resources available to faculty, staff and students can be found at: http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-misconduct/get-help/confidential-support.html

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