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AU Memo Letterhead

Memorandum August 14, 2020

To:
AU Community
From:
Seth Grossman, Vice President of People and External Affairs,
Chief of Staff and Counselot to the President
Subject:
Moving forward on the Office of Equity and Title IX

Today, with the official launch of our new Office of Equity and Title IX, American University takes a significant step forward in our work to address all forms of discrimination, including issues of sexual assault and harassment. President Burwell announced the creation of this office in July as part of AU’s ongoing efforts to combat structural racism, eliminate gender-based violence, address barriers that prevent members of our community from full participation and access to the university’s programs and activities, and promote equity and inclusion for all students, faculty, staff, and other members of the AU community.

The new Office of Equity and Title IX will lead the university’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination 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 or local laws and regulations.

Any member of the AU community will now have a single place to file a complaint or seek support, ensuring both easier access and a point of accountability. As a dedicated resource, the office will enhance education and training and respond to all discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault claims from students, faculty, and staff. The new office is a space for everyone in our community to be heard.

We are in the midst of a search to for a new assistant vice president for equity and Title IX officer to lead the office and hope to have this person in place within the next month. Until that time, Stephen Vaughan, our interim Title IX officer, will continue in his role serving as the university’s Interim Title IX coordinator. If you have any questions or feedback about the Office of Equity and Title IX, please contact equityoffice@american.edu.

The new federal regulations regarding Title IX also go into effect today. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities. The new regulations from the US Department of Education include narrowing the definition of what constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX and requiring a live hearing as part of the formal resolution process. AU is making changes to its Title IX process to comply with the new regulations. Failure to comply with the federal regulations would result in the loss of federal funding, including student financial aid and faculty research grants. Actions which do not violate Title IX under the new federal regulations may still be prohibited based on AU’s own community standards and will be addressed under the university’s new Discrimination & Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy and Non-Title IX procedures. A working group with representatives of offices that work with students, faculty, and staff worked over the last several months to implement the federal regulations and adopt other policies to both comply with federal requirements and ensure that the university can effectively address and respond to sexual assault or harassment.

You can read the new Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy here. More information on the new regulations can be found on the FAQ page or on the Title IX website.

The efforts of the working group on Title IX are driven by the need to comply with the new regulations by the deadline set by the US Department of Education. Nevertheless, as the new office launches, we want to make clear that the office and new assistant vice president will also be focused on addressing all forms of discrimination, in addition to the work on addressing sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. We will be sharing more about these other components of the office’s work over the coming months. 

Our efforts to combat racism, sexual assault, and discrimination are part of our larger inclusive excellence journey. These are challenging issues to confront, but we are committed to creating open dialogue, supporting our community, and making progress on this path as AU lives up to its core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.