University Faculty, Staff Receive Training on Investigating Complaints of Sexual Violence, Title IX Compliance
About 50 University faculty and staff members took part in training Jan. 27 that involved matters relating to Title IX, including investigating and adjudicating complaints of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual harassment and stalking.
University faculty and staff members, who are responsible for investigating and/or adjudicating complaints of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual harassment and stalking by students, staff and faculty at the University, participated in training sessions as part of ongoing education on the latest methods and processes.
“This training educates investigators and adjudicators so the University is able to provide impartial, equitable and trauma-informed investigation and adjudication processes for students, faculty and staff,” says Pam Peter, assistant dean/director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. “It is meant to enhance and improve our processes and what we’re doing for the University community.”
The sessions included material on the University’s policies, procedures and resources relating to sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, including complaint policies and procedures, prohibitions on retaliation and student code of conduct; each employee’s specific role and responsibilities under the University’s policies and procedures; and how to conduct adequate, reliable, thorough and impartial complaint investigations and adjudications, including the effects of trauma and the rights of both parties.
The training for staff was conducted by Debbie Osgood, a partner at Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose Ltd., and the former national enforcement director for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). She has extensive expertise on Title IX, having worked for OCR for 25 years and assisted in the development of the model the OCR uses when investigating institutions.
There was also a session on “Fairness and Compassion for All Parties in the Complaint Process,” facilitated by Cory Wallack, director of the University Counseling Center, and Osgood.
“The session discussed how these situations impact students and how to be objective but caring to both parties,” Peter says. “We reviewed how not to traumatize individuals who are going through the process, how to ask appropriate questions and how to phrase questions in different ways to get the necessary information to make an assessment about the facts.”
Faculty members underwent training facilitated by the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion & Resolution Services and the Office of Faculty Affairs. The training included material on the University’s policies, procedures and resources, and also covered conducting effective investigations. Wallack also facilitated the same session on “Fairness and Compassion for All Parties in the Complaint Process” for the faculty members.
In addition to the training on Jan. 27, members of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence met with Osgood Jan. 26 to learn about strategies and best practices for Title IX compliance.
The session for members of the task force reviewed such matters as reasons to focus on Title IX compliance, the Title IX investigation process, trends in recent Title IX court cases and OCR sexual violence cases, and what upcoming changes might be expected in federal Title IX enforcement.
“This session allowed for greater understanding of what happens when an investigation takes place and then also a discussion of what might occur in the new administration,” Peter says. “The presentation provided a broader overview of the Office for Civil Rights, and the office’s overall purpose.”
Representatives from the OCR were on campus Jan. 24 and 25 to assess Syracuse University’s processes for handling complaints of sexual violence or harassment. These visits take place at campuses around the nation, as part of a Title IX review. OCR is looking into about 300 Title IX complaints at universities and colleges nationwide, including two cases at the University. While on campus, OCR hosted two community meetings, both of which were open to students, faculty and staff.