Dear Carolina Community,
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time set aside across the nation to educate our communities about the impact of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence and to promote prevention. Since arriving in July, I have been impressed by the transformative nature of Carolina’s focus and the depth of engagement on student welfare and campus safety. Many students, faculty and staff have created a month full of activities, and there are more to come. I know we all appreciate and will benefit from their efforts.
Sexual assault is a significant issue that has captured our nation’s attention, resulting in greater focus on enforcing the obligations of universities to provide a safe and secure educational environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence. Federal laws, like Title IX (prohibiting discrimination based on sex or gender), the Clery Act (mandating reporting of crimes on campus) and the 2013 Campus SaVE Act (broadening the scope of responsibility to include dating violence, domestic violence and stalking) frame daily conversation here and across the country. In the wake of President Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and forthcoming guidance from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), we can expect that greater enforcement efforts by OCR and new federal guidance and regulations will continue to shape campus responses across the nation.
As a part of this national conversation, I took part in an unprecedented panel discussion of university presidents on “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students” at the University of Virginia in February, and addressed the White House Task Force later that month. Here at Carolina, more than a year ago our students ignited a broad conversation and set forth key objectives to improve reporting and campus responses to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. The Title IX Policy Task Force, comprising a cross section of our community, has worked tirelessly since last May to fulfill those objectives. They have been reaching out to include diverse perspectives from across our community and examining every aspect of our institutional response, from reporting to remedies to investigation, adjudication and appeal.
I look forward to receiving their recommendations soon. We will work over the summer to implement policy improvements in accordance with their efforts. As we continue this work we plan to develop an advisory body both to oversee the operational implementation of the recommendations and to provide ongoing evaluation of our systems and services. We will work diligently to include the community’s voice in the front and center of our efforts. These actions will supplement significant steps already taken to enhance our support and response systems for students, staff and faculty who report sexual and gender-based harassment and violence and for all individuals who are accused of such conduct. For example, we know that implementation of a coordinated response system will help us better serve our community’s needs. To that end, we have created a multi-disciplinary Title IX team based in the Equal Opportunity/ADA Office. This team is working to ensure that our students are informed of where to report and to seek support they need. We also are strengthening current training and educational programs to increase awareness, emphasize the importance of prevention, and ensure fair and impartial processes.
As one of the leading issues in higher education, Carolina has a vital role in this conversation. Our goal is to get it right. I am fully committed to ensuring that Carolina is a community that is welcoming, safe, and informed. I would like to extend my personal thanks to each of you for your contributions, your participation in this dialogue, and for your commitment to creating a safer Carolina.
Carol L. Folt
Published April 25, 2014
Updated April 29, 2014