Case Western Reserve University’s new sexual misconduct policy now in effect

After seeking comment on an interim version for the entire academic year, Case Western Reserve has adopted a new sexual misconduct policy effective July 1. It applies to all university faculty, staff and students, and its text can be found online.

The university developed the interim policy last year in response to direction that the United States Department of Education issued to all academic institutions that receive federal funds. The policy revisions address the agency’s guidance to academic institutions regarding Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender-related discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds. Among other guidance, the Department of Education called on institutions of higher education to combine existing sexual harassment and sexual assault policies into one unified sexual misconduct policy. It also directed institutions to clarify definitions of sexual misconduct violations and streamline the hearing and appeals process to ensure reasonably timely resolution. Finally, universities were charged to evaluate and revise their processes to ensure that all parties received full, fair and equal treatment.

During the course of the academic year, university leaders presented the policy to multiple groups, among them the Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Council, and Undergraduate Student Government. The university also opened a forum for online comments.

University leaders reviewed all of the comments received and consulted with a nationally recognized expert on such issues, attorney Saundra Schuster of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. Schuster also spoke to the campus community to help educate constituents regarding opportunities and obligations regarding sexual misconduct under federal law.

“Our Sexual Misconduct Policy is not only a guide for how our campus community can expect misconduct to be handled,” said Marilyn S. Mobley, Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and the university’s Title IX coordinator, “but also a statement of our intent to be a safe campus that is free of sexual harassment, sexual violence or any other kind of behavior that interferes with teaching, learning, and conducting business at Case Western Reserve.”

Others involved in developing the policy and sharing it with stakeholders included Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark, Deputy General Counsel Colleen Treml, and Associate Professor of Nursing Patricia Higgins, who played a pivotal role in the development of the university’s earlier sexual harassment policy.

The university plans to offer several educational opportunities in the coming academic year, including information about what bystanders and witnesses should do when they observe or hear about an incident, as well as steps individuals can take to help prevent misconduct. Watch the daily for announcements regarding those events.