Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funding; under Title IX, sex discrimination, includes sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
The University of South Carolina has an inherent responsibility to address the challenges of sexual and gender-based harassment, interpersonal violence and sexual assault at our institution. The campus community has rightly requested that an issue of this magnitude be prioritized with the greatest level of exigency and diligence. As we identify and develop both proactive and effective approaches, the safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff continues to be our ultimate priority. Our objective is to ensure everyone involved in a Title IX reporting and investigation process is treated justly and provided the necessary supportive measures to efficiently navigate the Title IX process and continue their access to our educational and employment program and activities.
On July 1st, 2021, President Harris Pastides released the Title IX Task Force Report; this Task Force led by Dr. Audrey Korsgaard and Dr. Kirsten Kennedy produced a series of recommendations that laid the ground work for the Title IX Implementation Group. The Title IX Implementation Group is a multi-disciplinary team with area expertise across critical functions. Its goal is to facilitate the university’s efforts to refine, prioritize, and operationalize initiatives aimed at fostering a university culture free from sexual and gender-based harassment, interpersonal violence and sexual assault. The guiding principles for this workgroup were care, collaboration, and momentum. While national standards create a minimum threshold for measuring Title IX compliance, we believe, as a Flagship University, that we can and must do better in our approach to prevention and education, our provision of supportive measures and remedies, and our implementation of prompt and equitable investigation and adjudication of reported incidents.
This ‘Implementation Plan’ was informed with a full understanding of the analysis and reviews that have come before, strong connection to those who enabled it, and close collaboration with the existing leadership, internal subject matter experts within the university team, and the expert advice of our external consultants from Cozen O’Connor’s Institutional Response Group. The Implementation Plan will enable the improvement and strengthening of the University of South Carolina’s Title IX program.
During the Summer of 2021, the Title IX Implementation Group structured four implementation subgroups. Each subgroup concentrated on actionizing the recommendations from the Title IX Task Force Report, the Audit and Advisory Services Report, and initial action items from Interim President Pastides. The four subgroups were:
- Training and Education
- Process Improvement in Reporting
- Process Improvement in Advocacy & Support
- Investigation & Resultant Adjudication/ Discipline
Each subgroup was asked to review and prioritize the recommendations in their subject area, to identify the action steps and resources needed to accomplish the recommendation, and to address the time frame for completion of the action item. For each subgroup below we summarize the relevant Title IX Task Force finding, identify the members of subgroup, and present the recommended prioritized action item/ completions goal as well as timeline for deployment. The action items in priority order by subgroup table provides a summary with links to more description in the narrative.
Among all of the action items below, the foremost priority is the establishment and development of the Title IX Office infrastructure, personnel, and resources. The Title IX Office is a critically important and highly visible demonstration of the University’s commitment to responding to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence effectively, compassionately, and in a manner consistent with our institutional values and mission. Based on the work of the Title IX Task Force, as well as our own benchmarking, the university’s current response falls short in many aspects. This Implementation Plan is the first step in strengthening our response systems. We recognize that the creation of this office requires a significant investment by the university’s senior leadership at a time with many pressing fiscal priorities and challenges. Nonetheless, the recommended action items below are required in order to meet our Federal compliance obligations and appropriately care for our campus constituents.