You are here: American University Office of Equity and Title IX New Office of Equity and Title IX

AU Memo Letterhead

Memorandum July 2, 2020

To:
AU Community
From:
Sylvia M. Burwell, President
Subject:
Announcing the New Office of Equity and Title IX

Our nation and our university are confronting the scourges of racism, discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault. Today, I want to share our latest action to address undue burdens on women, people of color, and underrepresented communities. We are establishing a new Office of Equity and Title IX as part of our ongoing inclusive excellence work. The creation of this office furthers our continuing efforts to dismantle structural racism, eliminate gender-based violence, support survivors, and address barriers that prevent members of our community from full participation and access. We hear and acknowledge the concerns raised by members of the AU community about the challenges of reporting and investigating these incidents, and we are striving to improve the spaces and practices that support those affected. 

The office will oversee all of our efforts to prevent and respond to discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault 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. It will also enhance education and training in these areas, serve as a dedicated resource and point of accountability for our community, and respond to all claims in these areas from students, faculty, and staff. 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 assault complaints; and provide everyone in our community with a space to be heard.

The new office brings together key responsibilities that are currently distributed across the university, helping members of our community access these services with a single point of contact. It was created following months of work and analysis assessing how the university could best serve our community and improve how we prevent and respond to sex, gender, and race-based discrimination and violence. The structure of the office incorporates stakeholder feedback from across the campus, including recommendations from the Bias Response Working Group. The new office will better align with best practices at other universities and is an element of implementing the new Title IX rules recently issued by the US Department of Education. 

A new Assistant Vice President for Equity and Title IX Officer will lead the office, and we are currently recruiting for this critical new leadership position. The Assistant Vice President and the office will report to Seth Grossman, who in addition to his position as Chief of Staff and Counselor to the President will take on the role of Vice President of People and External Affairs. Given that our people are vital to AU’s mission, it is important that these issues are appropriately represented at the Cabinet level. Beth Muha, our Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, will continue to report to Seth. Stephen Vaughan, our acting Title IX officer, will continue in his role until the new Assistant Vice President is in place.

The Office of Equity and Title IX will officially launch on August 14, 2020. During the setup of the office and after it is operational, there will be extensive consultation with students, faculty, and staff to inform the office’s work. We will provide additional information as the office begins operations in August and as the search for the new Assistant Vice President proceeds. If you have any questions or feedback about the Office of Equity and Title IX, please contact equityoffice@american.edu.

Supporting members of our community in the ways they need and improving the institutions and processes that serve them is an important part of the journey to greater equity and justice. I hope the new office will be a mark of progress towards a better AU.