DOJ Title IX Compliance Review and Resolution Agreement
Utah State University signed a resolution on Feb. 12, 2020, with the Department of Justice after a multi-year review of the university’s policies and practices for responding to reports of sexual misconduct involving students between 2013 and early 2017. In January 2017, the DOJ began a review into USU’s handling of student-involved sexual misconduct. This review found system-wide failures in USU’s processes to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, and echoed the findings of an internal review USU conducted in fall 2016.
USU has acknowledged and accepted responsibility for failing to appropriately prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, and began a series of sweeping changes in fall 2016 to fix problems with prevention efforts, reporting, supportive measures, investigations, and the disciplinary action process.
Since launching new prevention programs in fall 2016, USU has trained more than 20,000 students on consent and sexual assault prevention and more than 3,000 individuals to be active bystanders, or Upstanders. USU's agreement with the DOJ helps provide a blueprint for future work, including expanding education on respect and consent to students, staff, and faculty.
New Prevention and Education Commitments
USU has committed to the following new or expanded actions:
- Update and revise the sexual misconduct policy and the procedures for investigation and disciplinary action. USU is already in the process of updating policies and procedures, and plans to finalize these in the next few months. The university will roll out an education campaign when these are released.
- All incoming students attending a residential campus (Logan, Price, and Blanding) must complete in-person training regarding sexual misconduct prevention. Currently, 65% of new students on the Logan campus enroll in the first-year experience class, Connections, where they receive in-person training on bystander intervention. This commitment will expand in-person training to more students and expand the topics covered.
- All undergraduate and graduate students must complete annual online training in sexual misconduct prevention. Currently, new students must complete an online course in only their first semester.
- All employees designated as "responsible employees" under Title IX must receive annual in-person training in their responsibilities to report disclosures of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator. Currently, all employees are training during the on-boarding process, as part of the sexual harassment training, and online.
- Those employees involved in the Title IX process, those receiving confidential disclosures, and officers in the USU police department will also all receive annual in-person training.
DOJ Conclusions on USU Title IX Compliance
The DOJ concluded that USU (1) had failed to respond appropriately to known sexual harassment creating a hostile educational environment, and (2) did not comply with Title IX's regulatory requirements.
Since its own internal review in fall 2016 revealed similar failings, USU has made sweeping changes that include the following actions:
- Overhauled Title IX oversight and compliance: provided an additional layer of supervision above the Title IX coordinator; increased staffing in the Office of Equity with the hiring of four new positions, including a prevention specialist, a new Title IX coordinator and a new director in fall 2018, as well as a new supportive measures specialist and additional investigator in fall 2019.
- Began reorganizing fraternity and sorority life and hired a coordinator to improve student safety and increase oversight and accountability.
- Trained student-athletes in sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention annually, with new students receiving in-person bystander intervention (Upstanding) training their first semester. Athletics staff also receive annual training on Title IX compliance.
- Created a Task Force and several working groups to recommend vast changes and implement them quickly, and formed a committee that meets monthly to coordinate and implement Title IX oversight, victim resources, and prevention efforts.
- Conducted the university’s first campus climate survey on sexual misconduct to gauge student attitudes and experiences with sexual misconduct. A second survey, conducted in April 2019, shows an increased number of students who know how to report sexual misconduct, are aware of confidential resources, and think USU handles incidents fairly.
- Added policy and procedures to the Student Code addressing how the university will handle anonymous reports and reports where the victim does not want to participate in an investigation and/or requests limited action by the university.
- Created a risk assessment for all reports of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking to ensure that USU responds appropriately when there is a threat to campus.
- Partnered with the Utah Department of Health to tailor its bystander intervention program, “Upstanding-Stepping Up to Prevent Violence in Utah,” for USU campuses. Over 10,000 students have been trained in this program so far.
- Began requiring all new students (freshman, transfer and graduate students) to complete an online sexual assault prevention program in their first semester. Those who do not complete the program are not able to register for the next semester.
- Joined the global “Start by Believing” campaign to decrease victim blaming and increase support for those in the campus community who disclose sexual misconduct.
This report has been redacted to protect student privacy in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).