What is the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, and why is it important?
The regulations, which have the force of law, have been in development since the fall of 2017 when OCR rescinded prior guidance from 2011 and 2014.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.
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
USC Student Health’s Engemann Student Health Center Suite 356
(213) 740-9355 (WELL)
Counseling and Mental Health
Provides designated counselors for Respondents
Student Counseling Services (SCS)
Provides direct support to both Reporting Parties and Respondents
Center for Work and Family Life
Provides support for employees
If I report being sexually harassed or assaulted to the Title IX Coordinator do I still need to go to the police?
- Call Student Counseling Services to speak with a confidential counselor who can provide immediate emotional support.
- University Park Campus, Engemann Student Health Center, Counseling Services(213) 740-7711
- Health Sciences Campus, Eric Cohen Student Health Center, Counseling Services(323) 442-5631
- 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.
- 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.
- If you would like interim supportive measures contact the Title IX Coordinator or notify the EEO-TIX investigator.
- Call a trusted friend, family member or someone else who can provide support.
- 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.