Federal letter prompts changes to University of Iowa sexual harassment policies

Complaints must be resolved within 60 days under new rules

Diane Heldt
Published: December 5 2012 | 8:32 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:58 am in

University of Iowa officials will seek case resolutions in complaints of sexual harassment within 60 days under policy revisions approved by University of Iowa faculty leaders.

The UI Faculty Senate on Tuesday approved revisions to faculty dispute procedures, stemming from federal guidelines to universities. An April 2011 letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights was interpreted to expand the reach of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities. The letter states that sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and therefore prohibited under Title IX.

Among the resulting changes UI officials added to the policy: cases will be resolved, from filing of complaint to sanction of the employee, within 60 days; mediation cannot be used with the alleged victim in cases involving sexual assault; and rights of the alleged victim in a Title IX case must be equivalent to those of the accused.

The 60-day window is one of the biggest adjustments, UI officials said, as the UI had been taking about 240 days to resolve such cases. The Office of Civil Rights looked at the UI's length of time in such cases and said the university was taking too long, Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said, "so we're already under the microscope." The UI will hire another investigator to help speed up the resolution of such cases.

Dodge said UI officials view the federal guidelines as requirements, even though they may not be spelled out as such. Office of Civil Rights officials said the 60-day guideline is an example of the length of a typical investigation.

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