Title IX in 2017 - VRA overview
The University of Alaska has worked to implement dramatic changes this year in the way we respond to, track, and train our community about sexual harassment prevention and sexual violence. Guided by the terms of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the university system is addressing and correcting Title IX compliance issues. The VRA outlined specific steps to improve safety and the campus climate throughout the University of Alaska system. Title IX staff and campus leadership have made those changes, and are implementing systemic improvements in many critical areas.
OCR’s review of the University of Alaska system began in May 2014 with the university providing more than 20,000 documents, including 274 sexual harassment and sexual assault files from 2011 to mid-2015. OCR identified a wide array of action items which the university committed to address and report on in regular compliance reports. The final report for 2017 is being delivered to OCR this week.
Highlights of 2017 VRA compliance efforts (See chart for further information)
- Title IX Coordinators and the newly appointed Chief Title IX Officer received specialized training for responding to sexual harassment complaints, investigating complaints, and improving campus climate. The Title IX Coordinators and Chief Title IX Officer meet weekly.
- A systemwide Title IX Taskforce with representation from a broad spectrum of departments meets monthly to discuss best practices for improving campus climate and addressing systemic concerns. Documentation of the meetings is required for 2017 as well as in 2018 and 2019.
- A new Notice of Nondiscrimination was drafted, approved by OCR and added to all university publications, websites and other materials for student or public use. Examples of updates with the new notice were submitted in September.
- A new section of Board of Regents policy (P.01-04) was drafted addressing 30 specific areas that OCR wanted clarified or stated in policy, including grievance procedures, deadlines and other clear and specific information covering students, employees and third parties. The policy was approved by the Board of Regents in June. Pending final approval by OCR, the policy may be revised slightly and will be widely shared.
- Regular and adjunct faculty, regular staff (responsible employees), Residence Life student employees, degree-seeking students, exchange students and students living on campus were provided mandatory Title IX training. Documentation that the university has provided required Title IX training must also be submitted in 2018 and 2019.
- Student committees were formed at each university and charged with providing recommendations to campus leadership to ensure that students understand their rights under Title IX including how to report possible violations, and for recommending strategies to improve the effectiveness procedures, support services and resources.
- A climate survey was administered in October and its results will guide necessary prevention, outreach and responses for issues that must be addressed in order to provide an environment that is safe and supportive to all students and in compliance with Title IX. Climate checks also will be required in 2018 and 2019 academic years.
- Letters and/or Memorandums of Agreement or Understanding were sent to law enforcement agencies in communities with UA campuses to improve communication and coordination with the university and address protocols and procedures for referrals or contemporaneous investigations.
- New procedures were put into place for any students placed with other entities, such as internships, clinical programs or other off-campus programs, to ensure a clear understanding of Title IX and to assure that sponsors of any activity involving students will take no action that would be prohibited by Title IX. A tracking report of any incidents was submitted. Reporting on the placement of students in outside entities also will be required in 2018 and 2019.
- The 23 cases that OCR identified to highlight problems in case handling were re-opened and the Title IX Coordinators proposed actions to redress wrongs or to clarify actions made by the university but not previously reported. Pending OCR approval, any required action to redress these past cases will be made.
- Guided by the examples highlighted in the 23 specific cases, all cases from 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years were reviewed. Pending OCR approval, the system will take appropriate action to address any problems identified including providing any available appropriate remedies.
- Complete case files for all cases from 2016-2017 were submitted to OCR for review along with a tracking report. This requirement will repeat for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years.
While meeting each of these deadlines took many hours for staff in Title IX, Residence Life, Student Services, General Counsel and other offices, the UA System welcomes this effort and the focus on continuous improvement. The safety of employees and students is a priority. The system will continue to work on strengthening awareness, educational campaigns, services, policies and procedures and will continue to comply with the VRA.
VRA Reporting Requirements and Deadlines
Download VRA compliance timetable as PDF