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2020-2021 Academic Year Report

Discrimination and Harassment Prevention and Response Including Sexual Misconduct

Executive Summary

The University of Rochester is committed to providing a safe environment for the University community to work, learn, live, and socialize together without fear of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination. The purpose of this report is to educate the University community about what the University does to prevent sexual misconduct, discrimination, and harassment in the academic environment and in the workplace and how the University responds to reports of that nature. The information in this report focuses on the University’s Policy against Discrimination and Harassment (“PADH”), the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (“SSMP”) and the Title IX Policy, which prohibit discrimination and harassment based on membership in a protected class, and all types of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.

The PADH specifically prohibits discrimination and harassment because of an individual or a group’s personal traits, characteristics, and/or beliefs, referred to in the Policy as protected status or protected class. What qualifies as a protected class is determined by applicable federal, state, and local laws. Protected statuses include age, color, disability, domestic violence status, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, familial status or an individual’s reproductive health decision making, military/veteran status, national origin, race (including hairstyle), religion/creed (including religious attire and facial hair), sex, sexual orientation, citizenship status, criminal conviction status, or “any other status protected by law”. The PADH also specifically prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains of or opposes perceived discrimination or harassment as defined in the policy.

The PADH applies to faculty, staff, residents, fellows, postdoctoral appointees, student employees, interns (paid or unpaid), volunteers, and to all visitors (including patients, contractors, and vendors) to any University campus, facility, and/or property and to University-sponsored activities and events, whether on University premises or not. The PADH does not apply to complaints brought against students (with the exception of student employees) or to any complaint that otherwise meets the jurisdictional requirements of Title IX.

The PADH currently mirrors the legal definitions of discrimination and harassment in the workplace and academic environment. This does not mean that all conduct that falls short of meeting this legal standard is acceptable or appropriate. Conduct that may not violate this Policy may still fall short of the values expressed in our vision and values statement: Meliora, Equity, Leadership, Integrity, Openness, Respect, and Accountability. The University can and does take steps to address conduct that could, if continued, meet the legal definition of discrimination or harassment. The University also can and does take action to address misconduct that does not violate the PADH but is otherwise significant enough to merit disciplinary action.

In November 2020, President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf charged leaders of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Office of Human Resources, and Office of Counsel to revise the University’s PADH, particularly regarding several key issues. These offices have collaborated with stakeholders across the University to significantly revise the PADH including changes to the standard for harassment claims brought by students and an overhaul of the way in which determinations are made at the conclusion of the investigation process. This process began in November 2020 and involved weekly meetings of a small writing group and regular meetings of a larger advisory group comprised of students, faculty, and staff from all units of the University. Once a draft was completed, it was reviewed by leadership groups including the Senior Leadership Group, Dean’s Council, and Faculty Senate. The revised PADH now awaits Board approval. A January 1, 2022, effective date of the new policy is anticipated.

Contact the PADH Team to report incidents of discrimination and harassment on the basis of a protected class by filing an online written report. You can also contact the PADH Team by emailing PADH@rochester.edu.

Two additional policies that address issues of sex-based misconduct are the Title IX Policy, which applies to all members of the University community, subject to certain threshold jurisdictional requirements, and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which applies if the accused party is a student and Title IX thresholds are not met. The University’s assistant vice president for civil rights compliance/Title IX Coordinator is responsible for implementing these two policies and for ensuring that all allegations of sexual misconduct are attended to in accordance with University policy and federal and state laws.

Contact the assistant vice president of civil rights compliance/Title IX coordinator to inquire about resources and/or to report incidents of sexual misconduct: titleix@rochester.edu.

The University has seen a steady increase in complaints of harassment and discrimination based on a protected class over the past several years. This increase in reporting is consistent with national trends as higher education institutions have placed greater emphasis on developing educational programs designed to help individuals identify inappropriate behavior and seek support to address it. Similarly, as the University has dedicated more resources to educational efforts regarding these topics, members of the University community have been better prepared to seek out resources when needed. Continued growth in the willingness of our community to raise concerns and take advantage of the University’s internal process is a positive sign.

Until this past academic year, the University had seen a steady increase in complaints of sexual misconduct. This year showed a decrease in overall complaints of sexual misconduct against students (95, down from 135). This is likely due to the decrease in the number of students on campus as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; a rebound to pre-pandemic levels of complaints is likely for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The University is committed to providing strategic, proactive, preventive programming and processes in the area of civil rights and Title IX compliance. The University continues to partner with internal and external resources to develop and provide training and support to Title IX coordinators, investigators, advisors, adjudicators, and appeal board members and is planning to provide similar training to PADH decision makers, all in furtherance of its efforts to ensure fair, thorough and impartial processes for all individuals involved.

The University remains committed to revising and creating materials geared toward understanding our policies and procedures and highlighting how to access important resources. This includes creating additional materials explaining the reporting obligations of faculty and staff found in different policies and procedures, including the PADH, the Title IX Policy, the Standards of Student Conduct, and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Introduction

The University of Rochester is committed to providing a safe environment for the University community to work, learn, live, and socialize together without fear of harassment and discrimination. The purpose of this report is to educate the University community about what the University does to prevent discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual misconduct, in the academic environment and in the workplace and how the University responds to reports of this nature. The information in this report focuses on the University’s Policy against Discrimination and Harassment (“PADH”), the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (“SSMP”) and the Title IX Policy, which prohibit discrimination and harassment based on membership in a protected class, and all types of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. Note: from 2017-2020, the University prepared one report regarding discrimination and harassment prevention and response and a second report regarding sexual misconduct and prevention. Because sexual misconduct is a form of harassment, the University has combined these topics into a single report (the report you are reading now).

1. Discrimination and Harassment: Prevention and Response Across the University

The information in this report focuses on the University’s Policy against Discrimination and Harassment (PADH), the Title IX Policy and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (“SSMP”) which prohibit all types of discrimination and harassment based on membership in a protected class, including sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct.

The compliance division of OEI currently includes the assistant vice president for civil rights compliance/University Title IX coordinator, the assistant director for educational outreach, the director of equal opportunity investigations and four equal opportunity investigators. In addition to these full-time staff positions, the University Title IX coordinator works with seven deputy Title IX coordinators. These individuals hold academic and administrative positions at the University and, as such, are an important in-house Title IX resource at each of the academic units, graduate and professional schools, and the Department of Athletics and Recreation.

The University Title IX coordinator is responsible for educating the University community on University policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct and ensuring that allegations of sex-based harassment are attended to in accordance with University policy and federal and state laws. Additionally, the director of equal opportunity investigations and the investigators regularly educate the community on the PADH, reporting obligations, and the investigation process.

The compliance division of OEI ensures that complaints of discrimination and harassment are handled promptly and equitably, with fairness to everyone involved. They make certain that everyone who comes to them understands their rights and has the information they need to determine how to proceed.

More information regarding the University’s policies related to sexual misconduct can be found online at rochester.edu/sexualmisconduct.

The PADH can be found online here: https://www.rochester.edu/policies/policy/discrimination-harassment/ and PADH complaints can be filed here.

1.1 Relevant Policies

The University’s Policy against Discrimination and Harassment

The University’s PADH specifically prohibits discrimination or harassment because of an individual or a group’s personal traits, characteristics, and/or beliefs, referred to in the Policy as protected status or protected class. What qualifies as a protected class is determined by applicable federal, state, and local laws. Protected statuses include age, color, disability, domestic violence status, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, familial status or an individual’s reproductive health decision making, military/veteran status, national origin, race (including hair style), religion/creed (including religious attire and facial hair), sex, sexual orientation, citizenship status, criminal conviction status, or “any other status protected by law.” The PADH also specifically prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains of or opposes perceived discrimination or harassment as defined in the policy.

The PADH applies to faculty, staff, residents, fellows, postdoctoral appointees, student employees, interns (paid or unpaid), volunteers, and all visitors (including patients, contractors, and vendors) to any University campus, facility, and/or property and to University-sponsored activities and events, whether on University premises or not.

Student complaints against faculty, staff, or vendors are handled under this Policy. However, the PADH is not intended to be used for complaints against students, with the exception of student employees. For student complaints, the Title IX Policy, the Standards of Student Conduct, and/or the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and related procedures may apply.

The PADH currently mirrors the legal definitions of discrimination and harassment in the workplace and academic environment. This does not mean that all conduct that falls short of meeting this legal standard is acceptable or appropriate. Conduct that may not violate this Policy may still fall short of the values expressed in our vision and values statement: Meliora, Equity, Leadership, Integrity, Openness, Respect, and Accountability. The University can and does take steps to address conduct that could, if continued, meet the legal definition of discrimination or harassment. The University also can and does take action to address misconduct that does not violate the PADH but is otherwise significant enough to merit disciplinary action.

In November 2020, President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf charged leaders of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Office of Human Resources, and Office of Counsel to revise the University’s PADH, particularly regarding several key issues. These offices have collaborated with stakeholders across the University to significantly revise the PADH including changes to the standard for harassment claims brought by students and an overhaul of the way in which determinations are made at the conclusion of the investigation process. This process began in November 2020 and involved weekly meetings of a small writing group and regular meetings of a larger advisory group comprised of students, faculty and staff from all units of the University. Once a draft was completed, it was reviewed by leadership groups including Senior Leadership Group, Dean’s Council, and Faculty Senate. The revised PADH now awaits Board approval. A January 1, 2022 effective date of the new policy is anticipated.

The University’s Title IX Policy and Student Sexual Misconduct Policy

Two additional policies that address issues of sex-based misconduct are the Title IX Policy, which applies to all members of the University community, subject to certain threshold jurisdictional requirements, and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which applies if the accused party is a student and Title IX thresholds are not met.

These University policies allow for thorough, reliable, and impartial investigations and adjudications of complaints of sex-based harassment as well as opportunities for alternative resolution. The wishes of the Complainant regarding the process and outcome are given deference when possible.

1.2 Education and Awareness Programs

Diversity, inclusion, and equity education and training are an essential part of building awareness and a cohesive work and academic environment and are offered throughout the calendar year. These skill-building opportunities are designed to inspire sensitivity and increase awareness.

The OEI staff, in conjunction with partners both on campus and in the Rochester community, regularly provide training to faculty, staff, and students regarding how to identify and respond to discrimination and harassment, as well as information about resources, supportive services, grievance processes, and reporting options.

All new and transfer students at the University are required to participate in training regarding sexual misconduct during their orientation to the University. In addition to requirements for new students, all student leaders and athletes must participate in supplementary training pursuant to obligations under the New York State Education Law and National Collegiate Athletic Association requirements. All employees are also required to take online harassment and discrimination prevention training on an annual basis.

The assistant director for educational outreach leads a committee of faculty, students, and staff to assess current training initiatives and develop a strategic plan that will ensure that all students at the University have regular access to training materials on this topic that are relevant and appropriate for their maturity level and tied to their academic interests.

Additional information regarding available training on these topics can be found online here.

In addition to our educational prevention measures, the University’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides prevention-related security services for all of the University’s campuses. These include regular security patrols by DPS officers, the utilization of residence hall access restriction systems and protocols, the use of security cameras, and the provision of emergency phones throughout the campuses. DPS also provides transportation services to students concerned about their safety and utilizes “UR Alert,” an emergency notification system that all members of the community can sign up for to receive information about health or safety issues. More detailed information regarding prevention-related security measures as well as data regarding reported crimes are described in the University’s “Think Safe” document, which is published annually.

Biennial Campus Climate Survey

A climate survey focusing on sexual assault and misconduct is delivered to all students at the University biennially. The most recent iteration of this survey launched in April 2021. Westat, a social science research firm, administered the survey, and individual responses were confidential. When students completed the survey, the link between survey responses and email addresses was broken; no one is able to connect a student’s email or IP address with their survey responses.

The deidentified results from the 2021 Campus Climate Survey are located on the University’s sexual misconduct website.

1.3 Connection to Title IX Coordinator and/or PADH Team

Contact the PADH Team to report incidents of discrimination and harassment on the basis of a protected class by filing an online written report. You can also contact the PADH Team by emailing PADH@rochester.edu.

Contact the assistant vice president of civil rights compliance/Title IX coordinator to inquire about resources and/or to report incidents of sexual misconduct: titleix@rochester.edu.

Information about potential incidents of sexual misconduct comes to the Title IX coordinator through several channels. The majority of incidents involving undergraduate students are referred by Residential Life student and professional staff after students disclose information to a resident or community advisor. Graduate students are more commonly referred through the CARE Network or a student’s direct outreach to a Title IX coordinator or other faculty or staff member who subsequently refers the student to OEI. Incidents involving employees are commonly referred to the Title IX coordinator by the PADH Team.

Prior to meeting with potential Title IX complainants, OEI provides materials to review with information about their rights and options for accessing supportive resources as well as how to make a complaint about the incident. When Title IX complainants arrive for their meetings, this information is reviewed. The University’s Reporting Options and Resources flowchart is also available to assist individuals in identifying how they wish to move forward with Title IX complaints.

Individuals’ decisions regarding what resources and/or reporting mechanism they want to use is given tremendous deference. In most cases, the University respects individuals’ wishes regarding whether they wish to utilize a grievance process or decline to report the incident at all.  However, in some cases the University has an obligation to respond to an allegation of discrimination or harassment. This is particularly true in cases where the respondent is an employee.

1.4 Accommodations and Interim Measures

During an individual’s first meeting with OEI, options for accommodations are discussed at length. All individuals who come forward to complain about a sexual misconduct incident are entitled to accommodations regardless of whether they ultimately decide to sign a formal complaint or pursue an investigation. The most common accommodation requests for students are academically related (requests for extended due dates, changes to exam schedules, or movement to a different section of a course to avoid interacting with a particular party).  Other accommodation requests for students include changes to housing or parking assignments, requests for transportation assistance, connection to counseling and other health services.  Common accommodations for employees include temporary leaves of absences; exclusion from programs and facilities; altering working, learning, or patient care environments; or imposing other conditions in the University environment as warranted.  For both students and employees, OEI can also issue an Active Avoidance Order (AAO). An AAO is a document issued to limit contact between two or more individuals who are engaged in an interpersonal conflict. An AAO is only valid on the University of Rochester campuses and is not considered formal disciplinary action by the University when issued as an accommodation.

In addition to connecting them to University resources, individuals complaining of sexual misconduct are informed of their right to make a report about the incident to state or local police as well as their option to seek assistance from outside agencies such as RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, Willow Domestic Violence Center, and The Legal Aid Society of Rochester.

1.5 Reporting and Response

Complaints arising under the PADH should be made to OEI.  Complaints made verbally or in writing to another person or office, for example, an individual’s department chair, dean, director, or immediate supervisor; the Office of Human Resources; any University Ombuds; or the Office of Counsel, must be promptly reported to OEI. Complaints to the Office of Equity and Inclusion should be made through an online written report.

Reports of potential sexual misconduct against faculty or staff made to the Title IX coordinator will be addressed under the PADH, as will reports of potential discrimination or harassment against faculty or staff made through Bias-Related Incident Reports, unless the alleged behavior meets the threshold requirements of the federal Title IX regulations, in which case the University Title IX Policy and procedures apply.

All members of the University community are encouraged to report discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Management and supervisory personnel, faculty members, Human Resources Business Partners, employees in the Office of Counsel, and employees in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, who see or learn of perceived discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace must report these concerns to OEI.

In the student context, Responsible University Officials and Responsible Employees have separate reporting obligations outlined in the Title IX Policy, the Standards of Student Conduct and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.  More detailed information regarding the processes for reporting student sexual misconduct complaints is included in the Reporting Options and Resources guides located on the University’s sexual misconduct website.

Investigation Process

All complaints are reviewed by OEI’s compliance division and are assigned to investigators as appropriate.  All investigators at the University have undergone extensive training to ensure their investigations and resulting reports reflect a thorough, fair, reliable, and trauma-informed process that is sensitive and respectful to all parties.

PADH

All complaints about discrimination, harassment, or retaliation require some degree of investigation and may require witness interviews and an investigatory report. However, the University may use alternative resolutions to complaints in situations that can be expeditiously resolved via education, mediation, restorative practices, or other alternative means.

The process for investigations resulting in an investigatory report is outlined in the PADH and typically includes interviews with the complainant, the respondent, and witnesses with knowledge of the conduct alleged. When the investigation is complete, a written report is prepared by the investigator and sent to the decision-maker. A list of these decision-makers can be found in the PADH.

Title IX and SSMP

Complaints brought by students and employees may fall under the Title IX policy. If a complaint of sexual misconduct meets the threshold requirements of the Title IX Policy, the University is required to proceed under the grievance procedure set forth in that policy. If the complainant chooses to sign a formal complaint, an investigator is assigned to gather the relevant information and prepare an investigative report.

There may also be a hearing wherein parties and witnesses are questioned, and then a determination is subsequently made by an outside adjudicator. Any determination would include whether a policy violation occurred and what, if any, discipline or sanction should result.

If a complaint of sexual misconduct against a student does not meet the Title IX threshold requirements, the complaint will be investigated under the SSMP, which follows the same investigation and hearing process as Title IX. If a complaint of sexual misconduct against an employee does not meet the Title IX threshold requirements, the PADH process is used.

2. Data on Reports, Investigations, and Outcomes

This report contains data regarding complaints of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation for the 2020-2021 academic year. The data included in this report reflect all complaints of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, regardless of whether the complaint was resolved via a formal investigative report and determination or through an alternative resolution. The data also include any written complaints made under the PADH or submitted to the Title IX coordinator, even if those complaints did not allege any discrimination or harassment based on membership in a protected class or did not allege any retaliation because a person complained of or opposed perceived discrimination or harassment as defined in the PADH and/or Title IX Policy. In addition, the data include any complaint forwarded to OEI, even if the complaint could not be investigated because the complaint or the complainant did not provide sufficient information to either identify the respondent or investigate the complaint.

2.1 PADH Data

Affiliation of Complainants

In academic year 2020-2021 (between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021), there were a total of 427 complaints. This compares to 146 complaints in the prior academic year and 62 complaints the year before that. In 58% of matters, the complainant was a staff member.

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Affiliation of Respondents

Of the complaints where a respondent could be identified, most often the respondent was a staff member (in 63% of complaints). See below chart for a complete breakdown of respondent affiliations.

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Nature of Allegations

Complainants at times identify membership in more than one protected class as part of their complaint or may also include a complaint of retaliation. Other complainants do not identify any protected class as part of their complaint.

Claims of sex-based discrimination can include complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, gender identity/expression discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination.

Where a complainant indicates more than one basis for the complaint, all of those bases are separately reported here. The bases identified by complainants are also reported regardless of whether the allegations or the investigation support it.

See below chart regarding nature of allegations.

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Complaint Outcomes

Of the 427 complaints received in 2020-2021, 63 were investigations resulting in investigatory reports; of those, 24 respondents were found responsible for violating the PADH, and 14 investigations remain in progress. Regardless of whether a complaint was resolved by investigation and investigatory report or by an alternative resolution, in 108 cases, the respondent received additional training, education and/or counseling, and in 41 cases, the respondent received some form of discipline, ranging from mandatory training to termination of employment.

Trends

The University has seen a significant overall increase in PADH complaints (427 complaints in the 2020-2021 compared to 146 complaints in 2019–2020). Sex- and race-based complaints continue to be the most prevalent.  This year, 44% of the complaints were regarding sex-based discrimination, and 40% were regarding race-based discrimination.

This increase in complaints may be influenced by the dialogue regarding discrimination and harassment at the state and national levels as well as the important dialogue occurring within the University. Continued growth in the willingness of our community to raise concerns and take advantage of the University’s internal process is a positive sign.

2.2 Title IX and SSMP Data

Affiliation of Complainants

Between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, the University received 95 complaints falling under the Title IX Policy and the SSMP. The vast majority (86 percent) of complainants were University of Rochester students. However, there were also complaints made by individuals of unknown affiliation, including anonymous complaints.

In 2020–2021, the vast majority of the student complainants were undergraduate students in Arts, Sciences & Engineering, followed by Eastman School of Music undergraduate students.

As of August 2020, per new federal regulations, the Title IX policy includes complaints of sexual misconduct against employees, assuming Title IX thresholds are met. In 2020-2021, however, there were no employee complaints which met the Title IX threshold that proceeded under the Title IX grievance policy. This is likely to change going forward as complaint numbers rebound from the artificially decreased levels we saw during the pandemic year.

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Affiliation of Respondents

In 2020-2021, half of the complaints (44 percent) were regarding students in AS&E.

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Nature of Allegations

The information below describes the type of alleged behaviors as described by complaints made to the Title IX coordinator. It is important to note that complaints often involve more than one allegation of inappropriate behavior; for example, it is common for an individual to have been alleged to have engaged in both sexual assault and unwanted touching in the course of one reported incident.  

In 2020–2021, the University received 28 complaints of actual or attempted sexual assault, 22 complaints of dating or domestic violence, 15 complaints of stalking behavior, four complaints of sexual exploitation, and 34 complaints of sexual harassment against students.

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Connection to Support without Referral to Conduct

The majority of individuals who disclose a sexual misconduct incident to the Title IX coordinator do not request an investigation of the incident, nor do they provide sufficient details for the University to pursue an investigation without the complaining individual’s participation. These individuals request to receive connections to supportive resources and accommodations but do not wish to move forward with a complaint and investigation. While every individual who is connected to the Title IX coordinator is aware of the University’s desire to investigate and respond, the University is required (pursuant to New York State’s “Enough Is Enough” Education Law obligations) to respect students’ decisions not to formally report the incident unless one or more of the aggravating factors outlined in the applicable University policy is present, or the University is otherwise required by law to respond to the reported conduct. In the event that any individual, student or employee, reports a concern of alleged sexual misconduct committed by University faculty or staff, the University has heightened responsibility to take remedial action, although the University always makes efforts to secure the cooperation of the complainant before moving forward.

Withdrawing

New York State Education Law requires the University to put a notation on the academic transcripts of students who are suspended or expelled following a finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct. Students who withdraw from the University pending a proceeding with the conduct system will have a notation placed on their transcript indicating that they withdrew from the University pending non-academic disciplinary action.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, no students withdrew from the University after pending conduct allegations that they engaged in sexual misconduct. Between 2018 and 2020, there were also no students who withdrew from the University under such circumstances, and in the 2017-18 academic year, three students withdrew.

In 2020–2021, ten student sexual misconduct cases were referred to the student conduct system, down from 13 in the prior academic year. Of those complaints, six resulted in a not responsible finding, two were resolved via Informal Resolution, and two remain in progress.

In addition, disciplinary consequences can also include a ban from University housing or other property and an ongoing, active avoidance order.

3. Conclusion and Goals

The University is committed to preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment, including sexual misconduct, in the workplace and academic environment by providing strategic, proactive, preventive programming and processes in the area of civil rights compliance and harassment/discrimination response. The University continues to partner with internal and external resources to develop and provide training and support to the Title IX coordinator, investigators, advisors, adjudicators, and appeal board members and is planning to provide similar training to PADH decision makers, all in furtherance of its efforts to ensure fair, thorough, and impartial processes for all individuals involved.

The University remains committed to revising and creating materials geared toward understanding our policies and procedures and highlighting how to access important resources. This includes creating additional materials explaining the reporting obligations of faculty and staff found in different policies and procedures, including the PADH, the Title IX Policy, the Standards of Student Conduct, and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.

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