Based on the findings noted above, the Task Force has identified numerous recommendations outlined below. These recommendations are guided by three core principles: respect, accountability, and empowerment. With regard to respect, the process of addressing potential Title IX violations must be conducted in a manner that respects the rights of both complainants and respondents. The process should be conducted with interpersonal sensitivity, preserving the dignity of both parties and minimizing the trauma and anxiety both parties are liable to experience. With regard to accountability, all members of the university community need to recognize their shared accountability for stopping SHV. For some offices, a higher degree of monitoring and accountability is required to assure integrity of the system. As well, greater attention is needed to shared accountability as cases move from one office to the next. Greater accountability is also needed for university managers and leadership in monitoring and providing corrective and disciplinary action. Finally, at the institutional level, a more salient and deeper commitment to inclusion and respect of all persons is needed. With regard to empowerment, all stakeholders need to be sufficiently informed and equipped to address SHV. All members of the UofSC community should be empowered to act effectively as bystanders and reporters and be able to navigate the process of a Title IX complaint from either the complainant or respondent role. As well, university managers and leadership must be better equipped to proactively manage difficult employees. This requires improvements in training and education, information sharing, and building trust in the system.
Prevention and Education
Prevention and education activities are being delivered; however, they are limited in frequency, content and scope. The following recommendations are intended to increase the frequency and tracking of prevention and education activities, while at the same time expanding offerings to targeted populations.
- Create a centralized training function responsible for coordinating legal compliance requirements and overseeing delivery, content, and completion of training, prevention and education programming related to SHV. This function will have responsibility for identifying training needs and ensuring accountability and compliance with mandated training.
- Develop a comprehensive, strategic training plan. This plan should be iterative and layered (see recommendation No. 3 below). This plan should offer training online and in-person, and it should provide additional tailored training for specific campus constituent groups (e.g., athletics, graduate students, international students, student leaders, registered student organizations, and fraternities and sororities).
- Training should be mandated for faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students on an annual basis. Initial training for new hires and new students should be comprehensive, and subsequent training could be considered “refresher” training. Compliance should be promoted through incentive and/or enforcement mechanisms (e.g., training must be completed to access my.sc.edu, as is the case for FERPA training). Training should be expanded to include the Title IX prohibition against retaliating against individuals for reporting SHV, what constitutes retaliation, and how to report retaliation.
- Individuals who have more direct responsibility for Title IX should receive additional
specialized training annually.
- Mandate comprehensive, annual training for all Title IX implementers, including Title IX coordinator, deputy Title IX coordinators, investigators, Office of Student Conduct, DLES, and SAVIP. The content of these trainings should include all forms of interpersonal violence, lethality risk and assessment, impact of trauma on the brain, vicarious trauma, trauma-informed investigation and response, processes for civil and criminal cases, LGBTQ+, Title IX regulations and investigations.
- Provide expanded SHV training for department chairs, directors, and other unit heads who supervise others that is tailored to their role as managers.
- Provide expanded training for all individuals designated as “mandated reporters.” This training should clarify reporting responsibilities to include prohibited conduct reported by students, staff, and faculty. It should also clarify the mandated reporter role of third-party contractors and vendors (labor contracted out by UofSC including the bookstore, food service, custodians, etc. who appear to be UofSC employees, as well as contractors who provide construction, maintenance, and other service functions on campus). Mandated reporter training must emphasize the importance of maintaining privacy of information related to a report of prohibited conduct.
The recommendations below would serve to improve both complainant and respondent experiences.
- Develop a dedicated intake and outreach function within a centralized UofSC office
responsible for receiving reports of sexual harassment and violence, implementing
supportive measures, and investigating and adjudicating formal complaints (“report
and response office”).
- Create an online and app-based reporting portal to route all reports to the report and response office. Communicate all reporting options widely, including in-person, telephone, email, and the online reporting portal.
- Ensure that all reports receive a response within 24 hours.
- Examine the requirement that a complainant submit a written report and explore alternative means of generating reports that minimize re-traumatization.
- Provide consistent and clear information on the difference between confidential resources and mandatory reporters in policy, web content, training, and communications.
- Consistent with the Title IX regulations, ensure that campus policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment and violence have jurisdiction to respond to historical allegations and/or reports by individuals who are no longer affiliated with the University (albeit there may no longer be disciplinary authority over a respondent who is no longer affiliated with the University).
The following recommendations are directed at ensuring that investigations are conducted with the utmost integrity, respect, and interpersonal sensitivity.
- Review and refine investigative protocols for prohibited conduct and rubrics for evaluations of cases.
- Provide regular review of cases to ensure that investigations and the documentation thereof adhere to policies, procedures, and rubrics.
- Review and revise communication protocols and documents to be less intimidating and more user-friendly to all parties. Ensure that investigators conduct trauma-informed, sensitive interviews with all parties involved in a case.
- Adhere to timelines while maintaining the flexibility to permit extensions for good cause with written notice to the parties regarding the reasons for the delay.
- Benchmark investigator qualifications and salary ranges to attract and retain the highest quality investigator.
Adjudication and discipline
- Create a system so that once a finding of reasonable cause is determined, the referral for the appropriate disciplinary consequences is consistently delivered and respondents are held accountable for their actions.
- Assure consistent and thorough record keeping of disciplinary action within HR, the provost’s office and the Office of Student Conduct that provides sufficient rationale for the action and is aligned with EOP findings. Require Human Resources to forward a copy of the disciplinary action to EOP to provide a single repository for all aspects of the case.
- Create an easy-to-understand mapping of the disciplinary process for student, staff, and faculty respondents.
- Create guidelines for corrective action and monitoring of inappropriate behavior that falls short of policy violation.
- Review and revise the Faculty Manual and/or policy to address remediation and/or sanctioning of faculty misconduct. Specifically, revisions should:
- Provide for a range of sanctions consistent with progressive discipline and South Carolina state law.
- Provide a clear definition of various forms of faculty misconduct, including SHV, and offer greater precision on forms of misconduct that might require revocation of tenure.
- Review the role of the Faculty Misconduct Committee to ensure the scope is legally compliant and members have sufficient training for role.
- Clarify policies regarding the prohibition of consensual relationships between university community members where one party has academic or supervisory control over the other party (See USC School of Medicine document Guidelines for Conduct in Teacher Learner Relationships for helpful policy language)
Advocacy and support
Advocacy and Support should be separate from investigative functions, as housing all in one office can create a potential for conflict of interest if the roles are not clearly delineated. These recommendations are focused on providing support for both the complainant and the respondent.
- Develop consistent and trauma-informed first responder protocols to ensure that no matter which reporting office (OSC, SAVIP, EOP, DLES) receives the report, the complainant is provided with consistent information about emergency, medical, mental health, and crisis resources, confidential resources, and reporting options.
- Review and revise all web-based content, forms, and communication templates and protocols to ensure that information is accessible, user-friendly, and interpersonal sensitive. Efforts should be made to ensure that information is tailored to the needs of various campus constituencies. EOP should ensure that web content is current and consistent across all relevant webpages. In particular web pages should identify and provide a support/advocacy resource for respondents to provide equitable access to University resources.
- Continually assess ongoing threat and risk, re-evaluate supportive measures (to protect safety, deter retaliation, and ensure continued access to education program or activity), gather information from campus partners regarding pattern and prior conduct, and revise supportive measures as circumstances dictate.
The Title IX Task Force identified broader concerns that are separate from the Title IX process. Those include organizational structure and a culture of accountability.
- Evaluate the organization structure and consider modification to maximize effectiveness within Title IX regulations.
- Deputy Title IX coordinators should be supervised by someone with Title IX content expertise and who can hold deputy Title IX coordinators accountable for their decisions and actions. This recommendation will likely result in a dual reporting relationship for deputy Title IX coordinators (i.e., deputy Title IX coordinators will have a solid reporting line to their supervisor and dotted line responsibilities to the Title IX coordinator for their deputy Title IX coordinator responsibilities). Deputy Title IX coordinators should be provided access to written and web-based resources to be effective in their positions.
- Consider how best to integrate decentralized academic units with a centralized report-and-response office. This may result in Title IX liaisons for each school and college in which the liaisons would receive reports, assist in the delivery of training, liaise with the centralized office, and serve as a visible resource within each unit.
- Clarify the purpose and composition of campus committees, working groups, and/or task forces related to Title IX to ensure effectiveness and reduce redundancies in function.
- Provide real-time access to general counsel with subject matter expertise for consultation on quickly evolving cases.
- Consider removing the EOP reporting line to the Office of the General Counsel, as that structure has the potential to create a conflict of interest for the institution and is disfavored by the federal regulators.
- Consolidating EOP’s instance of Maxient with the UofSC license to include comprehensive and regional campuses. Maintain appropriate confidentiality and access by various implementors through permission levels.
- Developing a comprehensive and standardized method of recording cases within and across units.
- Providing consolidated annual reporting of aggregate data regarding reports, formal complaints, investigations, and resolutions related to SHV and other forms of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. These reports should be shared with the UofSC community in an easily accessible format.
- Training implementors and consultation with Maxient to leverage the full capability for reporting and tracking.
- Foster a deeper commitment to diversity, respect, fairness, and accountability within the University community. Specific emphasis should be given to shared accountability among all employees for SHV.
- Build a culture of collaboration and accountability among the core offices and roles involved in addressing SHV.
- Build in quality assurance measures, including exit interviews with parties, witnesses, and case participants at the conclusion of each matter. Operational adjustments should be considered based on the data collected in the exit interviews.
- Employ practices to resolve conflicts within and between units and foster mutual trust.
While many of the recommendations in this report can be readily implemented with minimal costs, others require further review and research. For example, the details of adjudication under the new federal policy are in development and yet to be evaluated. Other recommendations may require significant investments of people and time. For example, centralizing the training function may require the creation of a new position within HR or the centralized report and response office.
Additionally, when viewed in context of other recommendations and the broader organizational context, there may be constraints and unintended consequences of some recommendations. For example, while many of the recommendations we suggest address the problems of decentralized and fragmented practices, too much centralization and standardization can create an inflexible and bureaucratic process that may prove dysfunctional. Accordingly, this report serves to guide the work of Cozen O’Connor, an external firm engaged by the university, who will continue to work with members of the Task Force to further develop and implement these recommendations.