Background

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  An institution’s Title IX obligations extend to all of the University’s education programs and activities, including: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment.

Policy

What is the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, and why is it important?

This new Policy and its two accompanying resolution processes address all forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics; retaliation; sexual harassment; sexual assault; dating violence; domestic violence; stalking; and other forms of prohibited conduct. This Policy combines our existing and disparate Policy elements and framework from our existing student, faculty, and staff policies, to provide consistent application to students, faculty, and staff, as required by the final Title IX Regulations. The Policy defines and describes all supportive measures, reporting options, confidential resources, and the informal (alternative) and formal resolution processes to create user-friendly, accessible resolution processes.

Why is this Policy being revised and why now?

The changes to our policies and processes were required by the May 19, 2020 release of the final Title IX regulations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), as well as the terms of Resolution Agreements between the University and OCR in 2018 and 2020.  The Title IX regulations provide detailed requirements for processes related to reporting, supportive measures, informal resolution, and formal resolution that must be implemented by August 14, 2020.

 

The regulations, which have the force of law, have been in development since the fall of 2017 when OCR rescinded prior guidance from 2011 and 2014.  Proposed regulations were released for public comment in November 2018, with more than 120,000 individual commenters responding.  The final regulations, spanning 2033 pages, are complex, voluminous, and not without controversy.  Multiple lawsuits have been filed seeking to prevent their implementation, including by attorneys general on behalf of 18 states, and similar lawsuits by civil liberties groups seeking to enforce implementation are expected.  We are tracking each of these developments, as well as concerns that have been raised by community members and advocacy groups across the country.

Do the Policy and processes align with the University’s values?

While the regulations include many required elements, colleges and universities can continue to prohibit discrimination and harassment and respond in a way that is consistent with institutional values.  We want to reassure our USC community that the revised Policy and processes maintain core elements of care, equity, and fair process for all, including:

  • The Policy continues to apply to all conduct currently regulated by the University, as well as on and off campus conduct, and conduct that occurs in study abroad programs outside of the United States
  • The Policy includes a robust intake and outreach process, and any person who seeks support or assistance under the Policy will be provided with a written and clear articulation of resources, supportive measures, options, and processes
  • The Policy maintains both informal and formal resolution processes, with the right to an advisor of choice, and translated print and online materials available for all parties
  • The informal resolution processes are only available with the voluntary and written consent of the Reporting Party and the Respondent, and only in cases determined to be appropriate by the University
  • The formal resolution processes will continue to include:
    • Notice and a meaningful opportunity to respond
    • Equitable opportunities for the parties to participate
    • Trained and experienced investigators and decision-makers free from conflict of interest and bias
    • The right to an advisor of choice throughout the process
    • The preponderance of evidence standard
    • Reasonable time frames for the investigation, resolution, and appeal
  • Designated University employees will continue to have reporting responsibilities to ensure prompt and consistent access to resources and information for all community members
We commit to continue to provide resources and support to any impacted student or employee, to deliver robust prevention and education programming, and to ensure that our processes for reporting, investigating, and resolving Title IX reports are accessible, fair, prompt and equitable.

What do the new regulations require?

The final Title IX regulations require the University to address sexual harassment that occurs in its education program or activity. Sexual harassment, as defined by the regulations, includes sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. The regulations apply to all students, faculty, and staff – applying the same formal resolution process for all. Under the regulations, anyone can make a report and seek supportive measures. A Reporting Party or Title IX Coordinator can also file a formal complaint, which will initiate an investigation.

 

More specifically, the regulations – spanning 2033 pages – require an institution to provide supportive measures to any person who reports experiencing sexual harassment, regardless of whether they file a formal complaint; provides the circumstances under which a reporting party may file a formal complaint; requires a grievance process that treats reporting parties and respondents equitably when a formal complaint is filed; provides the requirements of a formal resolution process including sufficient notice of meetings and allegations, a review of all evidence gathered in the investigation that is directly related to the  allegations, the creation of an investigative report that fairly summarizes all relevant inculpatory and exculpatory evidence, a live hearing where the party’s advisor may conduct live questioning of the other party and participating witnesses, the provision of an advisor when the party does not have an advisor, equal rights to appeal the outcome and specific procedural decisions in the process; and the option of an informal resolution process

What are the primary changes?

The revised Policy framework includes one Policy and two sets of procedures (resolution processes):

  • The Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, which is a University-wide Policy prohibiting all forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics, and is applicable to students (and student organizations), faculty, staff, and third parties.
    1. Resolution Process for Sexual Misconduct, which resolves reports and formal complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking against students, faculty, and staff. The resolution process incorporates the specific prescriptions of Title IX and the Clery Act (as amended by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The resolution process includes informal (alternative) and formal resolution processes. The formal resolution process includes an investigation and a live hearing with cross-examination by the parties’ advisor as required under Title IX.
    2. Resolution Process for Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, which resolves reports and formal complaints of all other forms of discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics, not including sex or gender against students, faculty, and staff. The resolution process includes informal (alternative) and formal resolution processes. The formal resolution process includes an investigation, but no live hearing.

What are some of the benefits of the new Policy?

Incorporates the New Title IX Regulations – The Policy and Resolution Processes were developed to incorporate the final Title IX regulations that were published on May 19, 2020 and must be implemented by August 14, 2020.  Those regulations expressly state that they apply equally to students, faculty, and staff.

 

Provides Consistency and Clarity of Key Policy Provisions – The University-wide Policy provides consistent definitions of all prohibited conduct, as well as a statement of institutional values, the notice of non-discrimination, information about privacy and confidentiality, employee reporting responsibilities, and similar information that is applicable to all University community members.

 

Prioritizes Care and Support – The Resolution Processes provide consistent intake, care, resources, and support for parties and follow similar procedures through the investigation.

 

Meets Outstanding Compliance Obligations and Resolution Agreement Requirements – The approach and centralization of all reports through a University-wide Policy meets the requirements of the February 2020 and the January 2018 Resolution Agreement related to centralization, Policy revision, and the development of systems to track multiple or repeated complaints filed against or by the same person or department.

 

Integrates Community Voices – The draft Policy also incorporates the feedback of the Policy and Community Advisory Committee (PCAC), a representative group of students, faculty, and staff who have worked through the months of June, July, and into August to provide community perspective on the key aspects of the new TIX regulations – intake, support, investigations, and hearings.

What specific significant changes will the new Policy make?

Consistent with our ongoing initiative to centralize response to discrimination and harassment to ensure equal access for all members of the community, the revised Policy framework incorporates streamlined reporting and intake procedures for students, faculty, and staff. The Policy and accompanying resolution processes fulfill critical elements of our compliance obligations:

  • equitable access to resources and procedural options to reporting parties and respondents in accordance with the new regulations and state law
  • a detailed resolution process for Title IX sexual harassment and related forms of sexual misconduct that includes a robust investigation, followed by a live hearing, with cross-examination by a party’s advisor, and an external professional as the decision-maker
  • a similarly detailed process for all other forms of discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics, that includes a robust investigation, and where the investigator, in consultation with the VP of EEO-TIX or designee, is the decision-maker (this resolution process does not include a live hearing or cross-examination)
  • consistent intake, initial assessment, supportive measures, and investigation protocols in both resolution processes

The new Policy also provides consistency and clarity of key Policy provisions, prioritizes care and support, addresses compliance obligations and resolution agreement requirements, and integrates community voices.

Does this Policy cover incidents that happen during a study abroad program?

The USC Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation covers incidents that occur in any location, as long as they occur in – or have an impact on – the University’s education program or activity.

Who developed the new Policy?

This Policy and the accompanying resolution processes were developed through a comprehensive process, consulting with specialized outside Title IX counsel; implementers in Title IX and the Office for Equity and Diversity; Catherine Spear, who will lead the newly created Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and TIX (EEO-TIX Office); and the newly formed Policy and Community Advisory Committee.

What is the Policy and Community Advisory Committee?

To provide an opportunity for feedback from community members who were representative of our constituents, we formed a group of internal stakeholders through the newly-created Policy and Community Advisory Committee (PCAC). PCAC comprises faculty, staff, and students, including the presidents of the Academic Senate and Staff Assembly, and representatives from Graduate and Undergraduate Student Government. PCAC began meeting in June to discuss Title IX, harassment and discrimination, the new Title IX regulations, and the impact of the regulations for University stakeholders and constituents. The University has sought to include PCAC’s feedback on core concepts in the new Policy.

Will there be other materials to help understand this new Policy and accompanying procedures?

Along with this FAQ, other helpful materials (informed by input from PCAC) will be made available online.

Will there be an opportunity for feedback on this Policy from the USC community?

Opportunities will be provided throughout the fall semester for community feedback, including webinars and an online survey for anonymous comments.

How will the new Policy be reviewed and revised if needed?

The Policy builds in an annual – or shorter, if necessary – review to allow the Office of Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX to provide revisions based on changes in the law or implementation experience over the course of this upcoming academic year.

If I have questions about this Policy, who should I contact?

We encourage all University community members to review the Policy and resolution processes carefully and to submit any comments, observations, feedback or questions here.

EEO-TIX Office

Why are the Title IX Office and the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) being combined?

The revised Policy framework was developed to align with the centralization of these core functions into the Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX Office (EEO-TIX Office). The new office combines the current elements of the student, faculty, and staff Polices for consistency, and alignment with the OCR resolution agreement elements as well as the requirements of the new Title IX Regulations. The EEO-TIX Office will be led by the Vice President for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX, which is a newly-created position.

Reporting

Where do I report if something happened to me?

The Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX Office (EEO-TIX Office) is the office that handles reports of discrimination and harassment based on any protected status (including sexual misconduct). The EEO-TIX Office will provide support, information, and resources and will oversee investigations and adjudication of these matters.

Is what I report under Title IX kept confidential?

Information reported to the EEO-TIX Office under Title IX is kept private: only people who need to have information about the report in order to provide support, investigate, or adjudicate the matter have access to this information.

 

The University also offers access to Confidential Resources for individuals who are unsure about whether to report or are seeking counseling or other emotional support in addition to (or without) making a report to the University. Confidential Resources include:

 

Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP)
Provides direct support to Reporting Parties, including crisis appointments, group therapy, discussions of reporting options, and support surrounding academic accommodations.
https://studenthealth.usc.edu/sexual-assault/
USC Student Health’s Engemann Student Health Center Suite 356
(213) 740-9355 (WELL)

 

Counseling and Mental Health
Provides designated counselors for Respondents
https://studenthealth.usc.edu/counseling/
(213) 740-9355

 

Student Counseling Services (SCS)
Provides direct support to both Reporting Parties and Respondents
https://studenthealth.usc.edu/counseling/
(213) 740-7711

 

Center for Work and Family Life
Provides support for employees
http://cwfl.usc.edu/
(213) 821-0800

Can anyone report Prohibited Conduct?

Yes. Please click here for more information.

Is there a timeframe for making a report of Prohibited Conduct?

No, reports can be made to the EEO-TIX Office at any time.

What remedies are available to students when they report a Title IX incident?

Students can access a wide range of supportive measures when they report an incident. Students can request academic accommodations (such as an exam delay or a schedule change), a housing change (a new housing assignment or temporary safe housing), an Avoidance of Contact order, or other forms of support that would enable them to continue to participate in their education. Supportive measures are similarly available to all parties to the process.

If I report being sexually harassed or assaulted to the Title IX Coordinator do I still need to go to the police?

Reporting to the police is your choice. The University’s Title IX (and equal opportunity or other protected status) process is a civil process – which is separate from the criminal justice process that a report to the police initiates. You can report to the police and the University, one or the other, or neither. It is your choice. Under limited circumstances that pose a threat to the health or safety of a community member or as required by law or agreement with local police, the University may be required to share information with authorities. Participation with any process remains your choice.

Can I get supportive measures if I don’t file a complaint?

You can contact the EEO-TIX Office to get supportive measures without initiating a formal investigation. We will conduct an initial assessment to learn about your experience and hear what you need for support.

What do I do if someone reports that I did something to them?

  1. Call Student Counseling Services to speak with a confidential counselor who can provide immediate emotional support.
  2. If you received a notification email from an EEO-TIX investigator, follow the directions in your email and respond to the investigator by the date in your email to avoid a registration hold being placed on your account.
  3. If you would like help finding an advisor follow the instructions in the email that was sent to you by the EEO-TIX investigator, or you may reach out to your EEO-TIX investigator to ask for assistance.
  4. If you would like interim supportive measures contact the Title IX Coordinator or notify the EEO-TIX investigator.
  5. Call a trusted friend, family member or someone else who can provide support.
  6. Evidence to gather: As soon as you are notified of an investigation, certain information should be gathered before too much time elapses, so that you may submit it to the Title IX investigator. For example you might consider saving text messages, Facebook postings, emails, or voicemail messages that might prove relevant. If you have already deleted text messages, they might also be retrieved from your mobile phone company if you make the request during the current billing cycle. It can also be helpful to write down the names (or descriptions, if you do not have names) of possible witnesses, in case you later forget this information.

Advisor Information

Can I choose my own advisor?

Yes. A Reporting Party and Respondent have the right to an advisor of choice throughout the process. This is a right guaranteed by the Clery Act since the VAWA revisions in 2015. If a party does not have an advisor at the live hearing, the University must provide an advisor for the purposes of conducting questioning on that party’s behalf at any live hearing. The hearing advisor will be provided by the University free of charge.

What are advisors and what is their role?

Please see the Policy for the definition of advisors and their role.

Resources

What resources are available to me?

Please click here for a list of University resources.