On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the department’s intentions regarding Title IX. We still are reviewing communication from the department and will be able to speak to the details soon. However, regardless of decisions at the federal level, we have no intention of turning back on our commitment or resolve.
Sexual misconduct is a national challenge facing higher education, and our university is not immune. Far too many of our students experience sexual assault and sexual violence, and we are working aggressively to reduce and even eliminate these incidents from happening here. We are focused on prevention, investigating claims thoroughly and with fairness, and providing support. Coming forward to report incidents of sexual assault and sexual violence takes courage. Especially for survivors, we want to ensure we are acting with compassion. We also want to ensure we keep up our efforts.
Since 2010, we have intensified our focus and dedicated substantially more resources to strengthen our Title IX processes and programs. Today, we are much better equipped to address these issues, but always are working to improve. In fact, right now we are in the process of gathering input from students about our Title IX process so that we can learn through their observations and experiences. A strong collaboration with our students and a constant focus by the university are what it will take to prevent sexual assault and sexual violence and enhance the university’s response. In an update to our university community last November, we shared just some of the steps we have taken to strengthen our Title IX response. You can learn more about additional efforts and specifics here.
The federal government has a critical role to play, as well. The 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the U.S. Department of Education provided extremely important guidance to all of us in higher education and made clear that reducing and addressing sexual violence is a national imperative. Secretary DeVos’ announcement has generated real concerns that changes at the federal level could curtail efforts or, worse, undermine progress that has been made. Just as we are working to improve our approach here at the university, there are things that can be done to improve at the federal level, too. However, federal guidelines should remain as vigorous as they are today.
We will continue to place a high priority on combatting sexual assault and sexual violence. When an incident does occur, we will investigate promptly and fairly, with respect extended to all parties involved.