A Message from President Bob Caslen

March 14, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

The health, safety and welfare of our people is our top priority, and we unequivocally condemn all instances of sexual assault and harassment and interpersonal violence. I care deeply about this issue and hear your concerns. This type of behavior is inconsistent with our values as a university, and it is important that as an institution, we create a culture that is counter to these behaviors and that we continually improve the processes necessary to ensure these behaviors are identified and quickly stopped.

At the university, we have a multifaceted process in place to address these issues, including education for all UofSC employees, how survivors can make reports, how claims are investigated and the ongoing support we offer to members of our community. However, it is clear we can, and must, do more.

We must better support survivors, protect the rights of the accused and ensure our compliance with the law. In all matters, we will abide by the rule of law and enforce due process consistent with legal mandates and regulations established by the US Department of Education.

Sexual assault or harassment might occur as a singular act, but the impact can be compounded by the indifference or failure of others to act in a manner consistent with our values and policies. While the university has established the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention office to provide individual support to survivors as they navigate this experience, we must look at our systems across the institution to address where improvements can be made.

Finally, I also recognize that you have concerns not only about our current practices, but also about how we are moving forward to improve our response. Today, I am announcing some immediate next steps regarding the adjudication of sexual harassment and assault cases. They include:

(1) Continue the Title IX Interpersonal Violence (IPV) Workgroup:

  • This recently established interdisciplinary workgroup is comprised of senior leadership and meets monthly to review each pending case occurring on our campus and to ensure an integrated and proper investigation that includes care and advocacy for survivors.

(2) Establish an Independent Title IX Coordinator for the University:

  • I am separating the duties and responsibilities of the EOP Director and Title IX Coordinator into two positions, instead of one as it has been, to provide greater institutional capacity and service to address these issues.
     
  • We are currently engaged in a search for a new EOP Director and we will immediately begin a national search for the Title IX Coordinator.
     
  • I am creating an independent "Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Interpersonal Violence Office" that will report to me as President.
     
  • This new office will be overseen by the university's Title IX Coordinator and, accordingly, that role will transition out of its current location in the university's office of Equal Opportunity Programs.
     
  • The Title IX Coordinator will report directly to me as President.
     
  • In the interim, I have directed that Dr. Marc Shook, Dean of Students, assume the role and duties of Interim Title IX Coordinator for the university.
     
  • In this role, he will coordinate all of the activities with respect to education, reporting, adjudication, advocacy and prevention.

(3) Establish, Charge and Implement a Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Comprehensive Review:

  • This Review will be co-led by a senior faculty member with subject matter expertise and an administrator.
     
  • This Review will be comprised equally of Faculty, Administration and Student Leadership.
     
  • The Review will have 45 days to conduct a holistic and comprehensive review of our process, policy, training, historic activity, capacity and effectiveness.

(4) Establish a Case Review Committee:

  • I have established a Case Review Committee comprised of university experts who will review every case with the EOP office for completeness and validity prior to a determination being issued by the EOP office.
     
  • The Committee will also review every case with the Title IX office for completeness and validity prior to a determination being issued by the Title IX office.
     

(5) Review the Appeals Process for EOP Investigations:

  • As required by the US Department of Education, university policy allows either party in a Title IX case to appeal a determination. We will review best practices and determine appropriate appeal rights for the parties in non-Title IX cases.

In closing, I affirm that this is only the beginning of our increased efforts to examine and improve our response to sexual assault, harassment and interpersonal violence at the University of South Carolina. If you or anyone you know has experienced harassment, sexual assault or interpersonal violence, please reach out to speak with a trained interpersonal violence advocate. If you or someone you know needs to report an incident, please contact the Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) Office to file a report. I promise that we will continue to update our university community as these efforts evolve and reveal new understanding and need for further action.

Bob Caslen