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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Title IX, Strategic Plan on the agenda at Board of Trustees meeting

By Cody Clark

At the Western Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Oct. 12, the board heard both the results of the Title IX internal audit and the efforts of the Provost’s Office to make Western’s Strategic Plan more accessible to students.

Title IX

Internal Audit Director Antonia Allen presented the results of the Title IX internal audit to the trustees. Allen was tasked with assessing how Western has handled Title IX sexual harassment and sexual violence discrimination complaints. The audit looked into metrics on Title IX resolutions since fall 2016, when the Equal Opportunity Office became responsible for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.

The audit identified three opportunities for improvement in response time, documented procedures and providing written notice to complainants, Allen said.

It also recommended that procedures be amended to reflect the actual practices for how Western handles Title IX complaints. According to Allen, Western’s procedures for handling Title IX complaints are too old. They have not been updated since April 11, 2013.

“The documented complaint procedures were quite out of date and did not match what was actually happening,” Allen said.

The audit found that Western’s response to 13 of 15 Title IX complaints took longer than 60 days to complete. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights recommended, but did not require, that universities across the U.S. resolve complaints in less than 60 calendar days to be considered prompt.

Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, vice provost for the EOO, said the office has taken steps to better these and procedures shorten the time-frame in which complaints are resolved.

“When you’re on a quarter system, prompt timeframes are imperative,” Guenter-Schlesinger said.

The audit recommended that Western improve on providing written notice to complainants and respondents to Title IX claims after it was found that a student was not given notice of the results of a faculty-on-student complaint they were involved in.

President Sabah Randhawa was in attendance and acknowledged the results of the report, pledging to adhere to its recommendations.In response to the audit, Western has created a separate Title IX Office that reports directly to the president. The search for a Title IX Coordinator to direct this office is currently underway.

“As I approach students, faculty and staff, one thing became clear that what we’ve done isn’t enough, and there’s considerable addition work that needs to happen,” Randhawa said.

The full results of the internal audit can be viewed here.

Strategic Plan

Vice President for Academic Affairs Brian Burton discussed efforts to make Western’s strategic plan more accessible to campus community members.

Burton showed new additions to the strategic plan section of the website for the Office of the Provost, which included new metrics like student retention, graduation rates,  and enrollment for students of color.

Burton said these efforts will go toward Western’s need for increasing transparency and that the new section of the site makes “key information available easily” to students and faculty.

The improved section of the website can be found online here.

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