April 16, 2013
Message from Chancellor Thorp: Announcement On New Title IX Coordinator Position
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
As we continue our campus conversation about the issue of sexual assault, I want to update you on the positive steps the University is taking to strengthen our policies and procedures and expand the resources available to students.
An important part of our work includes making sure we have a dedicated team in place to help us address the challenges that face Carolina — and all universities — regarding issues of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence.
With that in mind, we have created a new position for a full-time Title IX Coordinator, and we will begin a national search for a candidate to fill that role permanently. In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that Christi Hurt, director of the Carolina Women’s Center, has agreed to serve in that position on an interim basis.
Ms. Hurt is a Carolina alumna (B.A. ’93, M.P.A. ’98) who demonstrates a lifelong commitment to preventing sexual violence and supporting those who experience it. Her background includes work on the local, state and national level in nonprofit organizations that advocate for an end to gender violence. She is attuned to issues of diversity and inclusion and well positioned to steer Carolina’s efforts with a firm and steady hand that is sensitive to all members of our campus community. In this new role, she will lead our initial efforts to improve the campus climate, ensure we have effective resources in place for students, faculty and staff who are affected by sexual harassment, discrimination or violence, and implement policies and practices that are prompt, equitable and in compliance with federal mandates including Title IX. She will report to Ann Penn, the director of our Equal Opportunity/ADA Office, and have regular communication and “dotted line” reporting to the Office of the Chancellor.
Ms. Hurt will work closely with several Deputy Title IX Coordinators across campus. We previously announced the appointment of Ew Quimbaya-Winship as Deputy Title IX Coordinator in Student Affairs. (Ew also serves as the Student Complaint Coordinator). We expect to appoint additional Deputy Title IX Coordinators in areas such as Human Resources and Athletics. These individuals will be designated from existing University personnel and will serve as an important resource to help educate, train and support campus community members.
What is Title IX?
For those of you unfamiliar with Title IX, it is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities at most schools, colleges and universities. Title IX is commonly associated with the concept of gender equity in athletics – a goal that has supported the growth and strength of women’s athletics programs. In reality, Title IX is far broader in its scope and protections, including a prohibition on sexual harassment, sexual violence and all forms of sexual misconduct.
University Involvement in Sexual Violence Cases
Under Title IX, the University (and any college or university that receives federal funding) must have a process in place for responding to allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment or sexual violence. Placing these responsibilities under the auspices of an educational institution is a sensitive subject. Many people feel that complaints of sexual violence should be handled exclusively by the police.
Let me be clear: Individuals are encouraged to report criminal behavior to local law enforcement.
However, even when local law enforcement is involved, universities are required to provide an alternative process for resolving complaints within our community. Our processes are designed to provide the affected individuals with more support and resources than they might find in the criminal justice system.
We continue to work diligently to make sure our policies, training, processes and resources are designed to best serve our students, faculty and staff. As part of that effort, we brought Gina Smith, a leading expert on sexual assault issues, to campus in February. Over the past two months, she has been a regular presence on our campus. Ms. Smith has met with numerous groups and individuals in an effort to seek feedback from a broad cross-section of our community. Your candid responses and willingness to openly engage in frank conversation on these difficult issues has framed her understanding – and in turn, our understanding – of our challenges, strengths and campus climate so that we may best assess, revise and improve the way we respond to these issues.
In the coming weeks, Ms. Penn will appoint a task force to review our policy and process for handling student-on-student complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination, including sexual misconduct. The task force will be chaired by Ms. Hurt and will include representatives from our students, faculty, staff and community.
The task force will begin meeting next month with a goal of finishing its review and presenting recommendations before the fall semester begins in August. I want to thank the future task force members in advance for the work and time commitment they will dedicate to this important issue for our campus community.
We will continue to promote and add to the information available on this issue at our Campus Conversation About Sexual Assault website, http://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/. I especially encourage you to review the key facts/frequently asked questions article featured in this link, http://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/faq/. It details University personnel and resources available to help students in all aspects of this issue. I also want to remind you about where to find the current University policy, http://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/policy/.
As the semester draws to a close, I want you to know that we remain laser focused on addressing these issues and doing everything we can to make Carolina a safe and welcoming place for you and everyone else who calls Carolina home.