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CWRU implementing new policies, procedures following DOJ agreement

Following an agreement made in August 2023 with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Case Western Reserve University is implementing new resources, focus groups and changes to the Office of Equity to improve the accessibility of incident reporting and awareness of resources regarding Title IX and sexual harassment incidents.

Throughout recent years, CWRU increased its allocated funding toward the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s Title IX support resources and University Health and Counseling Services. As part of this funding increase, the university created the Outreach, Assessments, Resources and Response (OARR) team, consisting of a licensed clinician and police officer who are trained in crisis intervention to respond to and provide quality mental health crisis assistance to CWRU community members.

CWRU’s Office of Equity revised the policy about incident reports and implemented a new reporting form to support people impacted by sexual harassment and discrimination. Since the agreement was released, training modules were offered to undergraduate and graduate students to serve as equity process advisors and members of hearing panels, and a process was implemented to ensure Greek Life chapters don’t retaliate against students who are experiencing or are accused of sexual harassment. The university is also producing its own training modules to educate the CWRU community on the resources provided by the Office of Equity.

“The university and DOJ are working together to create the modules, which will be rolled out to the entire community for the next academic year,” the university told The Observer.

In January, Rachel Lutner, former senior associate vice president of equity, took on the role of vice president of equity and Title IX coordinator. Lutner hopes to raise awareness about the resources that the Office of Equity provides and to develop an environment of support and safety regarding sexual harassment.

“This might mean providing individuals with academic accommodations (deadline extensions, class changes, etc.); referrals to counseling, medical and/or other healthcare services; campus housing or workplace adjustments; safety escorts; or no-contact directives,” she said. “But it also might mean taking on a full investigation and resolution process, if the person experiencing the reported discrimination or harassment chooses this route of action.”

Under the agreement, the university moved the Office of Equity from the purview of the Office of the General Counsel to the Office of the Provost, which Lutner said demonstrates President Kaler and Provost Ward’s commitment to campus equity.

“The No. 1 priority of the university has always been—and continues to be—the safety of our campus community,” Lutner said. “We will continue to enhance our safety measures across the university, including those referenced in the voluntary agreement.”

This summer and fall, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women and the Office of Equity are partnering to provide live and asynchronous training on bystander intervention and consent. The Office of Equity is also developing training aimed at supporting students participating in Greek Life programs.

The Office of Equity is also working to create mechanisms—such as focus groups—to better understand the Title IX needs of the CWRU community, Lutner indicated. To make resources more available to the community, links to the Office of Equity’s website will soon be available on many of CWRU’s websites. Following the university’s usual surveying practice and the agreement, a survey will be distributed this semester to assess community members’ feelings of safety and support with the hope of sharing the results before the end of the academic year.

After implementing the DOJ agreement, the university has been working with a focus group of students, faculty, staff and postdocs to review and revise new policies aimed at maintaining safety and support for the community. At the end of the fall 2023 semester, policy revisions were sent to the DOJ, and the university hopes to receive feedback on the revisions and share them with the campus community.

Lutner said, “I am hopeful that with these additional recommendations from the Department of Justice and a growing awareness of the Office of Equity, we will continue to cultivate a safe, supportive environment for everyone.”

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About the Contributor
Téa Tamburo, News Editor
Téa Tamburo is a member of the Class of 2027, and she is studying finance and economics. Prior to joining The Observer, Téa served as an editor-in-chief of her high school’s nationally ranked paper, The U-High Midway, where she was named to the 2022 Illinois All-State Journalism Team. In her spare time, she enjoys fashion styling and drinking boba and coffee.

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