(Photography by Tom Rossiter/Courtesy University of Chicago News Office)

Policy revision

The University implements changes in its approach to sexual misconduct and discrimination.

On July 1, three changes took effect in the University’s approach to unlawful discrimination and sexual misconduct. The latest step in the continuing effort to prevent sexual misconduct on campus, and to address problems quickly and effectively, the changes take into account both the particular needs of the University community and the best practices nationally.

“Sexual misconduct and unlawful discrimination are unacceptable and antithetical to the University’s core value of open inquiry,” said Provost Eric D. Isaacs in a statement. “We remain committed to allowing our students and scholars to participate fully and freely in our academic community. Taken together, we believe these changes in policy, disciplinary process, and staffing represent an important milestone in the University’s continuing efforts to fulfill that commitment.”

At the recommendation of an ad hoc faculty-student-staff committee appointed in March, two existing policies addressing these issues were joined into a single Unlawful Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy that applies to all members of the University community. Posted at unlawfulharassment.uchicago.edu, it clarifies and unifies the University’s stance and delineates new categories of sexual misconduct as defined by the federal government.

Also as of July 1, disciplinary processes for allegations of student sexual misconduct and unlawful discrimination will be the purview of a University-wide disciplinary committee. Isaacs will appoint faculty members from all schools and divisions of the University to serve on the committee, along with staff and student representatives. Members will receive intensive training to prepare them for the complexities and sensitivities of sexual misconduct and unlawful discrimination cases.

The University has also hired Jeremy Inabinet in the new position of associate dean of students for disciplinary affairs, effective September 22. He will bring specialized expertise to investigate allegations of student sexual misconduct and unlawful discrimination, and advise leadership on best practices for prevention and education.

Filling that role on an interim basis, Kenyatta Tatum Futterman has been appointed special assistant to the dean of students in the University. Futterman, who serves as an adviser in the College during the academic year and has worked with students in the College since 2010, has experience in private practice family law, providing legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. She previously represented criminal defendants as an assistant federal defender.

This January, the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University that it wanted to gather more information in connection with a student complaint filed in March 2013. UChicago is one of more than 70 colleges and universities that OCR is investigating for their handling of sexual misconduct cases. The University “has made every effort to comply with the spirit and letter of this inquiry, and will incorporate any OCR findings into its ongoing efforts to provide for the best possible campus climate,” it said in a February statement. The University has addressed sexual misconduct and other forms of harassment and discrimination in a number of ways over the years, including annual revisions to the disciplinary systems and the creation of student support programs such as the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call, the Bias Response Team, and Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention. The most recent changes in policy and process grew out of more than a year of deliberation and build on the work of faculty-student-staff committees that established the Sexual Assault Policy in 2006 and reviewed policies and student disciplinary structures in 2006 and 2010.

In 2011, the disciplinary process was further modified to align it with guidance issued by OCR. Karen Warren Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services, said the University will reach out to the community at the beginning of the autumn quarter to highlight the latest changes and provide updates.

“Through ongoing examination and deliberation by our deans, faculty, students, and staff, with particular attention to the experiences of those involved in sexual misconduct incidents and the resulting disciplinary processes, we believe we continue to improve the University’s approach to such incidents,” Coleman said. “In particular, these three changes help focus our efforts and bring a new level of expertise to bear.”