You are here: American University Office of Equity and Title IX Frequently Asked Questions

Equity and Title IX Office

The office will be responsible for addressing and responding to all reports of discrimination involving students, faculty, and staff, including sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, whether within or outside the jurisdiction of Title IX. This also includes overseeing AU’s efforts to prevent and respond to discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy or parenting, age, religion, disability, or other bases under federal laws and regulations. The office will serve as a single point of accountability for our community, and will also enhance education and training in these areas. 

President Burwell announced the creation of the new office on July 2, 2020, to establish a single, central office to handle this critical function. Having a centralized function with a dedicated leader will provide a direct avenue for individual concerns to be promptly and meaningfully addressed; enhance our approach to preventing and responding to discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct complaints; and provide everyone in our community with a space to be heard. The new office launched on August 14, 2020.  

AU’s assistant vice president for equity and Title IX officer will lead the office. Stephen Vaughan, interim Title IX coordinator, will continue in his role until the new assistant vice president is in place. The AVP will be consulting widely with students, faculty, and staff, about the office’s operations and functions as they build out the office. They will engage with students, faculty, and staff when they begin and on an ongoing basis and will provide regular updates regarding AU’s work in this area, including training and prevention efforts.  

Alleged conduct that doesn’t violate Title IX may violate another university policy. For example, sexual harassment that may not constitute a Title IX violation under the new federal regulations could still violate AU’s Discrimination and Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy. Those complaints would be investigated and addressed under those policies.

To communicate with the Office of Equity and Title IX to submit a report, file a complaint, or identify a concern regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct of any type, please email titleix@american.edu. For questions about the new Office of Equity and Title IX, or for concerns or complaints on other issues of harassment or discrimination, please email equityoffice@american.edu.

Title IX

The US Department of Education announced the new Title IX regulations on May 6, 2020 (“Title IX Final Rule”). They go into effect on August 14, 2020.  

As a recipient of federal funds, AU is obligated to follow the regulations and guidance issued by the US Department of Education. When the department decided to change its regulations and guidance, AU had to change its policy and procedures to ensure compliance. If AU failed to comply, it could lose all federally funded student financial aid, such as Work-Study and Pell Grants, and all federal research funding for faculty. Please read AU’s Title IX Sexual Harassment policy for more details.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: "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." Sexual harassment, as defined in the Title IX Final Rule, is a form of discrimination covered under Title IX. 

All American University students, employees (faculty and staff), volunteers, and visitors are protected under Title IX.

It is possible that online behavior would be covered by Title IX provided that such conduct constitutes sexual harassment, as defined by the Title IX Final Rule, in the university’s education programs and activities that occurs against a person in the United States.  

Pursuant to the Title IX Final Rule issued by the Department of Education, sexual harassment means conduct on the basis of sex that satisfies one or more of the following:

(1) unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the University’s education program or activity; 

(2) sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking as defined under the Clery Act; or

(3) a university employee offers an individual a benefit or service in exchange for unwanted sexual conduct. 

You can make a report or file a complaint with AU’s Office of Equity and Title IX. The Title IX coordinator will contact the complainant to discuss supportive measures and explain the process for filing a formal complaint. Reports or formal complaints can be made in person, by mail, or by electronic mail. To communicate with the Office of Equity and Title IX to submit a report, file a complaint, or identify a concern regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct of any type, please email titleix@american.edu. For questions about the new Office of Equity and Title IX, or for concerns or complaints on other issues of harassment or discrimination, please email equityoffice@american.edu.

An individual may file a report about a possible Title IX violation, but without a formal complaint from the person affected, the university may not be able to resolve the allegations. 

You will be contacted by someone from the Office of Equity and Title IX to discuss your concerns and possible next steps.  

Support, safety, or interim measures are used to ensure a safe and accessible environment for students. Following an investigation and a determination that conduct prohibited by Title IX occurred, more permanent support and safety measures may be implemented. Support, safety, and interim measures could include:

  • Housing support
  • Academic support
  • Escort services via AU Police
  • No-contact orders
  • Student employment supports
  • Interim separation from University community
  • Connection to medical, mental health, or advocacy support, and more

The Office of Equity and Title IX will endeavor to keep safety and support measures provided confidential to the extent that confidentiality does not impair the ability of the university to provide such safety and support measures.

No. Speaking with the representative from the Office of Equity and Title IX does not mean that you will have to file a formal complaint or participate in an investigation. The Office of Equity and Title IX will provide you with resources and reporting options to make the decision that is best for you. However, without a formal complaint and investigation, university may not be able to resolve the allegations.

Yes, you can also file a separate criminal report with the Metropolitan Police Department or the appropriate law enforcement agency for any criminal conduct. The criminal process and the Title IX complaint process at AU are separate but can occur at the same time.

AU will maintain the confidentiality of information shared throughout the grievance process. While AU is committed to respecting the confidentiality of all parties involved in the process, it cannot guarantee complete confidentiality. For example, disclosures may be required for the purpose of fact-finding or efforts to resolve the complaint. If you are concerned about confidentiality, you can speak to one of the confidential resources at AU.

In some cases, complainants may request that their names be kept confidential. The Title IX program officer or designee will evaluate each request and advise the complainant that confidential reporting will limit AU’s ability to respond fully to the matter, including pursuing disciplinary action against the respondent. Nevertheless, in most instances, AU will honor such confidentiality requests unless doing so would impede its ability to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for the AU community.

If you do not want to reveal the alleged perpetrator’s identity, the Title IX program officer can still provide information and connect you with valuable resources and support measures. However, in order to conduct an investigation under Title IX, the alleged perpetrator must be identified.

Yes, but only if the sexual harassment meets the definition under the Title IX Final Rule and occurs in an AU education program or activity and occurs inside the United States. If the sexual misconduct does not fall under the jurisdiction of Title IX, then the sexual misconduct may be in violation of another university policy, including AU’s Discrimination and Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy. If the sexual misconduct does not fall under any university policy, the University can still provide resources and assistance with filing a report with the appropriate organization.

In summary, a university investigator will talk to the parties, talk to witnesses, and gather evidence. Both parties will have a chance to review and present evidence and can have an advisor at any meetings. Both parties will have a chance to review the investigator’s report and provide feedback before it becomes final. If the investigator needs to follow up on any additional information, they will do so before they finalize the report. The final investigative report will be provided to both parties and to the hearing panel for the conduct of a live hearing. For more details, please see the Title IX Incident Response Protocol flowchart

Prior to the hearing, the Title IX coordinator will select a hearing panel comprised of three faculty and staff members. The hearing will be live and can be conducted virtually. It is not open to the public. Both parties will have a chance to present information to the hearing panel and for their advisor to ask questions on their behalf. Following the hearing, the panel will consider all evidence and determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence, whether the respondent has violated Title IX sexual harassment policy.

Yes. Either party may appeal the panel’s decision, which will then be reviewed by the appropriate university administrator. No sanctions will be imposed until a final determination has been made, including any appeals. 

The Title IX coordinator or designee will select a sanctioning panel, which will determine sanctions. The parties may participate in person or in writing. The panel recommends sanctions to the appropriate university administrator for a final decision, which is communicated to the parties. 

  • Students sanctions may include censure, educational actions, remedial, disciplinary probation, removal from University Housing, suspension, or dismissal. 
  • Faculty sanctions may include a minor sanction (such as a reprimand) or major sanctions (such as suspension or dismissal). 
  • Staff sanctions may include a warning, reprimand, temporary suspension without pay, or termination from employment. 

Contact the Title IX coordinator to request a disability accommodation for the Title IX process.

AU is making changes to its policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the regulations. Among the procedures that have changed is the addition of a live hearing before a panel which will determine if someone violated the Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy. However, AU is not changing the required standard of evidence, which is a preponderance of evidence. It is also not changing the types of behavior that are prohibited, either by the Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy or the Discrimination and Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy. 

Yes. There will be training for all members of the community and targeted training for faculty, staff, and students involved in the complaint resolution process.

AU has already begun communicating with the community about changes to the Title IX process. This began with the announcement from President Burwell regarding the creation of a new Equity and Title IX office. In addition, a number of different initiatives are underway to share information with the community. These include but are not limited to:

  • Notification and distribution of the new policy
  • Online training for all faculty, staff, and students
  • Forums with student groups
  • Discussions with Staff Council and Faculty Senate
  • Additional training for faculty, staff, and students involved in the complaint resolution process
  • A website for the new office is under development that will include training and resource materials.

Please reach out to the Office of Equity and Title IX at 202-885-8080 or equityoffice@american.edu

Contact the Office of Equity and Title IX, just as you would any complaint. They will address complaints that fall under Title IX, as well as those that do not meet the Title IX definition but may still violate university policy. Behavior that does not meet the definition of a Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy violation may still be addressed under the University’s Discrimination and Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Under the Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy, all university faculty and staff have a duty to report any potential incident of sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence, stalking, or other assault or harassment involving a member of the AU community when they become aware of such conduct.  

The only exceptions are those affiliated with OASIS, the Health Center, the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center, and ordained clergy in the Kay Spiritual Life Center.

Students are strongly encouraged but not required to report.

Reporting an incident to a faculty or staff member may not trigger an institutional response to a report. Therefore, AU community members who feel that they have been subjected to sexual harassment, as defined under Title IX, and are seeking an institutional response should directly contact the Office of Equity and Title IX.  

Confidential consultations about sexual harassment, sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, and gender discrimination are available from persons who are identified as confidential resources on campus. Students may contact the following offices for confidential advice and help:

Students involved in the Title IX process are encouraged to seek support.

  • Confidential resources at the university include the Counseling Center, OASIS, the Student Health Center, and ordained chaplains in the Kay Spiritual Life Center. Non-confidential resources include the Academic Support and Access Center, CASE (the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity), the Dean of Students office, and the AU Police Department.
  • The Office of Equity and Title IX can provide students with interim and support measures (e.g., no contact order, academic supports, housing supports, etc.). As needed, the office will work with the Dean of Students office to provide additional support measures.
  • Students involved in the Title IX process may be accompanied by an advisor of their choosing for any meeting related to the complaint. Advisor of choice is not limited to American University students, faculty or staff; however, the role of an advisor is limited to consultation.

Please refer to the Student Conduct Code, Section XX., for further information.

Confidential Resources 

Support Resources