Frequently Asked Questions: Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation

Table Of Contents

Background

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that provides, “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 broadly 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. In summer 2020, a change in the Title IX federal regulations was implemented and outlined new steps that schools like USC must take to comply with Title IX’s requirements. 


Policy

What is the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation (the Policy)?

The Policy, and its two accompanying resolution processes (Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation (DHR)and Sexual Misconduct), address all forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics, including sexual and gender-based harassment, and related retaliation; sexual assault; dating violence; domestic violence; stalking; and other forms of prohibited conduct. The Policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, and third parties. The Policy went into effect August 14, 2020, and fully complies with the new Title IX regulatory requirements.

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

While the 2020 Title IX regulation included many new requirements, the U.S. Department of Education left some discretion to colleges and universities to determine how best to prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and to respond in a way that is consistent with their institutional values.  We want to reassure our USC community that the revised Policy and Resolution Processes maintain core elements of care, equity, and fair process for all, including:

  • The Policy applies 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.
  • The informal resolution processes are available with the voluntary and written consent of the Reporting Party and the Respondent, and in cases determined to be appropriate by the University.
  • The formal resolution processes 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 (and a University-provided Hearing Advisor for the Sexual Misconduct Process, if any party does not have an advisor)
    • The preponderance of evidence (i.e., what more likely than not occurred) evidentiary standard
    • Reasonable timeframes for the investigation, resolution, and appeal stages of the resolution process
  • Designated University employees have reporting responsibilities to ensure prompt and consistent access to resources and information to make informed choices for all community members  

We commit to providing 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 all reports of protected class discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation are accessible, fair, prompt and equitable.  

How is the Policy structured?

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

  1. 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, is applicable to students (and student organizations), faculty, staff, and third parties.  
    • Resolution Process for Sexual Misconduct, which applies to 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 requirements of Title IX and the Clery Act (as amended by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act). The resolution process includes informal (i.e., alternative) and formal resolution processes. The formal resolution process includes an investigation and a live hearing with cross-examination (which means the ability of a party’s advisor to ask questions of other parties and/or witnesses on behalf of their advisee), as required under Title IX.
    • Resolution Process for Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation (DHR), which applies to reports and formal complaints of all other forms of discrimination (including based on sex/gender) and harassment (excluding sex/gender) based on protected characteristics, against students, faculty, and staff. The resolution process includes informal (i.e., alternative) and formal resolution processes.  The formal resolution process steps are similar to the Sexual Misconduct Process, with the exception that there is no live hearing and the Investigator, in consultation with the Vice President for EEO-TIX, makes the determination as to responsibility.

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 required to 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, including Healthcare staff, post-docs, etc.

Prioritizes Care and Support – The Resolution Processes, as well as the Intake, Outreach, and Care team within the EEO-TIX Office, provides consistent intake, care, resources, and ongoing support for impacted community members and parties to a resolution process.   

Meets Outstanding Compliance Obligations and Resolution Agreement Requirements – The approach and centralization of all reports through a University-wide Policy and EEO-TIX Office also implements the requirements of the February 2020 and the January 2018 Resolution Agreement submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights related to centralization, Policy revision, and the development of systems to track multiple or repeated reports or complaints to identify patterns. 

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, including the presidents of the Academic Senate and Staff Assembly, and representatives from Graduate and Undergraduate Student Government, who met throughout the summer of 2020 to provide community perspective on the key aspects of the new TIX regulations—intake, support, investigations, and hearings. The PCAC continues to regularly meet and advise the Division of Human Resources, Ethics, and Compliance, which includes the EEO-TIX Office, on policy and other matters of importance to the USC community.

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

The USC Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation applies to incidents that occur in any location, as long as they occur in—or have a continuing impact on—the University’s education program or activity.

If I have questions about or want to provide feedback on this Policy and the work of the EEO-TIX Office, what should I do?

EEO-TIX welcomes and encourages feedback on our policies and services and how we can better serve faculty, staff, and students. Feedback can be provided at this link or by directly contacting the EEO-TIX office at eeotix@usc.edu or (213) 740-5086.  

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

The Policy and Resolution Processes, at a minimum, will be reviewed and revised on an annual basis. 


EEO-TIX Office

Who works for the EEO-TIX Office?

EEO-TIX employs more than 20 professionals to focus on the following core aspects of EEO-TIX’s work: Education and Outreach; Civil Rights and Healthcare; Initial Intake, Care, and Support; Communications and Marketing; Affirmative Action and Equity; Investigation and Resolution; and Live Hearing management. 


Reporting and Getting Help

Where do I report if something happened to me?

The Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO-TIX) is the University administrative office that has responsibility for responding to all reports of discrimination and harassment based on any protected status (including sexual misconduct) and related retaliation. 

Is what I report to the EEO-TIX Office confidential?

Information reported to the EEO-TIX Office is kept private, meaning only individuals who need to have information about the report in order to provide support, investigate, or resolve the matter have access to this information. The EEO-TIX Office is not, however, a confidential resource. The University does offer 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 Formal Complaint to the University. More information about Confidential and Private Resources is available on our resources page

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

No, reports can be made to the EEO-TIX Office at any time. However, if someone no longer is affiliated with USC, the EEO-TIX Office does not have jurisdiction to conduct an investigation under the Formal Resolution process. 

Do I have to file a Formal Complaint to receive assistance from the EEO-TIX Office?

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, administrative 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. 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.


Advisor Information

What are advisors and what is their role?

The Reporting Party and Respondent each have the right to be accompanied at any meeting or proceeding under the Policy and the applicable Resolution Process by an advisor of their choice (Advisor of Choice). The Advisor of Choice may be any person, including an attorney, but need not be an attorney. A party may elect not to use an advisor for all stages of the formal or alternative resolution process, with the exception of the Live Hearing in a Sexual Misconduct Process when the University will provide a Hearing Advisor to any party who does not have an advisor at that time at no cost

The Resolution Process is not a legal proceeding and, although a party may be advised by their advisor, the conduct of the advisor will be governed by the Policy and the Resolution Process. A party’s advisor of choice may provide support and advice to the party at any meeting and/or proceeding, but they may not speak on behalf of the party or otherwise participate in, or in any manner delay, disrupt, or interfere with meetings and/or proceedings, with the exception of the Live Hearing in a Sexual Misconduct Process when they conduct questioning on behalf of their advisee. Generally, the advisor may observe, provide support, and provide guidance or advice to the party (in a non-disruptive manner). The University may remove or dismiss advisors who do not abide by the restrictions on their participation or who are otherwise disruptive. 

Please see the Policy for more information about advisors and their role.

What if I don’t select an advisor?

As noted above, a Reporting Party and Respondent have the right to an Advisor of Choice throughout the process, which may be but is not required to be an attorney. 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


Resources

What resources are available to me?

Please click here for a list of University resources.