February 22, 2018
Dear IU students, faculty, and staff,
On Tuesday, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education concluded its comprehensive, multi-year review of IU Bloomington's compliance with the federal statute that forbids federally funded universities from engaging in gender- and sex-based discrimination (Title IX). OCR also issued conclusions in four cases in which individuals alleged that our handling of their Title IX-related complaints was improper or inadequate.
The OCR's audit was thorough. Lawyers from OCR conducted student focus groups, interviewed staff and students, and reviewed more than 450 case files. After this review, OCR concluded that IU Bloomington's processes and procedures for addressing sexual harassment and assault are fair to both complainants and respondents. In addition, in the four individual cases, OCR concluded that IU had behaved properly and there was no evidence that our processes violated Title IX.
The audit was concluded through something called a "voluntary resolution agreement." While the signed agreement resolves OCR's audit, and its conclusions in the individual cases resolve those cases, neither action signals an end to IU Bloomington's commitment or obligation to our students, faculty, and staff. We take these issues very seriously and will continue to provide rigorous education and training as we work to create a safe campus environment.
The voluntary resolution, among other things, demonstrates OCR's understanding that the large fraternity and sorority system presents special challenges for our campus, which we also recognize. To that end, even before the resolution was issued, I put together a task force to deal specifically with these challenges and a spectrum of others that involve Greek life here.
I also want to review actions the campus has taken in this general area. Last August, we launched the Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy, which oversees and coordinates the campus' sexual violence prevention initiatives and provides victim advocacy services through Confidential Victim Advocates. This office works in partnership with specially trained counselors and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at the IU Health Center to provide comprehensive care and support for students who have experienced sexual violence. The campus has taken numerous other steps, which can be found at stopsexualviolence.iu.edu. I invite you to learn more about IU's work to address sexual violence by visiting that site.
IU Bloomington will continue its work to foster environments where students feel comfortable seeking help and making reports free from retaliation. We will strive to conduct investigations and adjudications objectively and thoroughly in a manner that ensures due process, fairness, and dignity to all involved. We will maintain regular contact with faculty, students, staff, community members, university-based experts and practitioners, and nationwide experts in an ongoing effort to review and adopt best practices. We invite any and all input and ideas, which you can share at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This review has focused on IUB's processes for resolving claims involving sexual violence and harassment. But we should not lose sight of the underlying issues. Sexual assault and harassment are devastating experiences that often deprive people of their right to education or a good working environment. Our commitment is to give our students, staff, and faculty the tools, education, and safe environment that should reduce the need for these processes to be invoked. We all need to recognize that no process is perfect—no process can undo the underlying harm done in a sexual assault, or substitute for the criminal justice system. OCR has affirmed, however, that our students, staff, and faculty can rely on their university to provide a fair and unbiased system to address these complaints when that becomes necessary.
Executive Vice President and Provost
Van Nolan Professor of Law