Seven years later: Workplace of Civil Rights’ Title IX monitoring at UNC closes

Two years after the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Bureau determined that the UNC was in violation of Title IX, the university’s monitoring program for the office was closed.

The OCR said in a September 21 letter that UNC had met the requirements of the 2018 agreement and that “no further oversight of the university’s compliance with the agreement is required.”

Four former undergraduate students and former student assistant dean Melinda Manning first filed a complaint with the Department of Education in 2013, claiming that UNC was promoting a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.

In 2018, the UNC was found to violate Title IX for failing to adopt and publish procedures to “resolve complaints of sexual harassment, including sexual violence,” promptly and fairly.

Under former Chancellor Carol Folt, the UNC signed a resolution agreement with OCR in 2018 and agreed to the surveillance by the office and the following measures:

  • “Clearly inform employees, students, and third parties about our policies on sexual harassment and gender discrimination;
  • Communicate all phases of the complaint procedure in writing at the same time
  • Provide a more detailed description of the voluntary informal settlement process;
  • Explain explicitly that a dean, director or department head must not refuse investigation results and recommendations for corrective measures in the event of complaints against employees.
  • Provide links to descriptions of the complaint procedures. ”

Although the surveillance program has officially closed, some of the original applicants want students to know that the need to hold UNC accountable has not ended. Here’s what the program meant, and what university activists say it means for the future.

What did the monitoring program consist of?

UNC agreed that the OCR should review and approve updated Title IX policies and procedures following the 2018 resolution, Adrienne Allison, director for compliance with Title IX, said in a statement.

This included in-person visits to the OCR, interviews, and additional data or reports if required, Allison said.

Howard Kallem previously worked for the Civil Rights Office for 20 years before serving as the UNC’s Title IX coordinator in 2014.

Kallem said surveillance programs consist of reporting requirements with set deadlines. The OCR then evaluates the reports submitted by the university and determines whether the facility has complied with the terms of the agreement.

“Ideally, the university will convince OCR that it has complied with the agreement, and then OCR will issue a letter saying, ‘Yes, you have met the terms of the agreement,” said Kallem.

Kallem said OCR’s oversight of universities is done through complaints and investigations. OCR can receive individual complaints or class complaints about discrimination.

Agreements consist of specific actions that the university must take, he said. Monitoring, on the other hand, consists in assessing whether these steps have been taken. From Kallem’s point of view, the UNC’s two-year surveillance program was quick.

“We know that this was made easier because the agreement was relatively short and limited to certain steps that it could take,” said Kallem.

Allison said OCR continues to enforce Title IX in universities.

Future activism

While federal institutions can hold the university accountable through surveillance programs, Manning said that pressure at UNC has historically come from students and alumni.

She said UNC has made progress in handling sexual assault since she originally filed the complaint with the Department of Education.

“In 2013 there wasn’t even an office for Title IX – that whole entity didn’t even exist,” she said.

Now she said UNC should seek more than just compliance.

Annie Clark, one of the original petitioners of the complaint, said it was difficult to know whether UNC had fulfilled its promises made under the 2018 resolution.

“It’s very hard for me to know exactly how much UNC has changed and how it’s going to be implemented because I’m no longer a student on campus,” said Clark. “This is a case that we filed in 2013. It is now 2020.”

Clark said completing the surveillance program means students and activists need to remain vigilant – and she doesn’t want all previous work to be in vain.

“If we’re not careful, history will repeat itself,” said Clark.

UNC was found in August 2019 in violation of the Clery Act based on the same 2013 federal complaint and closed a settlement for $ 1.5 million in June. The report reviewed compliance with the university’s Clery Act between 2009 and 2017.

After discovering this violation, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz undertook to make several changes, for example to develop an expanded training plan for the UNC police. including training at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center; and the establishment of a new Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management, a position held by George Battle III in January.

UNC will continue to be monitored for compliance with the Clery Act by the Department of Education until the department is satisfied that problem areas have been addressed.

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