The University of Idaho and Washington State University were both among the universities on a list released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education that are under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.The statements released by the two universities are below.
UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
MOSCOW, IDAHO – May 1, 2014 – The University of Idaho responded today to being including on a list of higher education institutions that are under review by the U.S. Department of Education for potential Title IX violations over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.
“Student health, welfare and safety is our number one priority,” said Bruce Pitman, Dean of Students at the University of Idaho. “The UI takes all complaints of assault very seriously and remains intolerant of sexual harassment, sexual assault or and other sexual misconduct. The UI is steadfast in its commitment to investigate all complaints as quickly as possible and to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to stop discriminatory behavior, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects. The UI’s victim care and concern infrastructure is robust, providing initiatives to educate as well as extensive services when sexual harassment and sexual assault occurs.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified the University in April 2013 of a complaint filed in March 2013 alleging that the UI failed to adequately respond to a Complainant’s complaint of sexual harassment and failed to provide the Complainant with a prompt and effective grievance procedure. Since then, the UI has continued to cooperate fully with OCR, which has included providing requested information and facilitating OCR’s Moscow campus visit.
The University believes that it fully complies with Title IX. Nonetheless, the University is always working to improve its policies and procedures and will continue to cooperate with OCR to make any suggested changes to ensure that our approach remains consistent with OCR recommendations and best practices.
Below are some of the improvements the University has made in the last few years to ensure our campus is safe and our students have the support they need:
· In 2012, the Dean of Students Office was reorganized to better address issues of sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence. The Associate Dean position was refocused to better oversee the student conduct process, investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving students and to work with educational programs. A full-time Coordinator for Violence Prevention was hired to implement programs focused on interpersonal violence and sexual assault. A full-time Coordinator for Student Conduct and Community Standards was hired to investigate alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct, present such alleged violations before a hearing panel and to serve on teams that investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
· A Speaker’s Bureau focusing on sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence gives presentations in classrooms and living groups. Speaker’s Bureau members, who are survivors of violence and sexual assault, tell stories about how their experiences have impacted their lives.
· The University of Idaho sent seven staff and community members to a Green Dot facilitator training in April 2013. The Green Dot program was launched in January 2014 and many UI student leaders have attended seven hours of training to learn the Green Dot philosophy as well as bystander intervention skills.
· Beginning in Fall 2013, all new UI students under the age of 24 are required to complete a three hour on-line training experience called “Think About It.” This is an interactive program that provides education in alcohol and other substance use, sexual misconduct, bystander intervention and healthy relationships.
WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
In January 2013, WSU received notice from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights that OCR had received a complaint alleging the university failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual harassment, including incidents of sexual assault.
Shortly after receiving the notice from OCR, WSU contacted OCR and requested to participate in OCR’s “voluntary resolution” process, which means WSU would work with OCR to make improvements in its policies and practices.
Since that time, WSU has been cooperating with OCR to provide information. In addition, in February 2014, OCR representatives came to the WSU Pullman campus for a site visit, which involved sessions with student focus groups, interviews with employees, and open sessions for students to meet with OCR representatives.
There has been no finding of any wrongdoing on the part of WSU. We are still waiting to hear from OCR regarding participation in the voluntary resolution process.
WSU takes its Title IX obligations very seriously and does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct. Complaints are investigated promptly, and appropriate steps are taken to stop discriminatory behavior, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects.
While we believe our complaint procedures, policies, and practices fully comply with the law, we look forward to working with OCR to make any needed improvements to ensure that these matters are handled in accordance with current OCR recommendations and best practices, and in a manner that best protects our students.