Notre Dame and Office of Civil Rights sign resolution agreement

Author: Dennis Brown

Notre Dame blue seal

The University of Notre Dame and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education have jointly signed a resolution agreement that recognizes Notre Dame’s wide array of effective policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct and calls upon the University to make several minor modifications to those existing practices.

“We very much appreciate the thoroughness exhibited by the OCR staff who conducted the review,” said Rev. Thomas Doyle, C.S.C., vice president for student affairs at Notre Dame. “The review has confirmed for us that we have outstanding initiatives in place, while also providing direction for several areas in which we can make modifications for improvement.

“Sexual misconduct can have no place at Notre Dame, and we are committed to continuing to protect the safety and human dignity of every student.”

The seven-month review found that Notre Dame has “implemented and commits to maintaining” a high set of standards related to combatting sexual harassment, including:

• Policies for conduct that create a campus environment “free from all discrimination on the basis of sex”
• A comprehensive system that encourages the reporting of incidents of discrimination
• A detailed definition of sexual misconduct, including a definition of consent
• A clear explanation of how to report sexual discrimination
• The prohibition of threats of retaliation
• Appropriate privacy protections for all parties

The resolution singled out the University’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP), a coalition of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and community representatives that offers advice and guidance on how to assist and support victims of sexual assault, facilitates collaboration and communication among different departments and student groups working to address sexual violence, and spearheads a variety of rape education/prevention initiative.

The resolution agreement calls on Notre Dame to document in writing already existing policies, including the use of a “preponderance of evidence” standard to evaluate allegations of sexual harassment in campus disciplinary hearings, the options available to victims of sexual harassment, and the specific steps the University takes when conducting investigations of reported incidents.

In changes from past practice, the University has agreed to provide for alternative arrangements for complainants who do not want to be in the same room as the accused during a disciplinary hearing and to give complainants the same rights to appeal the outcome of a disciplinary hearing as those provided to accused students.

The University also will provide in investigative reports 12 specified pieces of information, and it will invite victims of past sexual harassment to contact CSAP to provide recommendations for improving policies and practices.

The resolution stipulates that Notre Dame has entered into the agreement voluntarily and that it does not constitute a finding or admission that the University is not in compliance with Title IX.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at newsinfo.nd.edu on July 01, 2011.