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UW–Madison maintains strong campus response to sexual harassment and sexual violence

August 17, 2020 By Meredith McGlone

A number of changes are taking place this month regarding how UW–Madison responds to sexual misconduct.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations for how universities must respond to complaints under the federal civil rights law known as Title IX. While the new regulations provide a slightly different process for certain types of sexual misconduct under Title IX, UW–Madison has and will continue to enforce its current campus policies on sexual misconduct, which includes sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking and a newly added category, sexual exploitation.

“It’s important for students, faculty and staff to know that the university will continue to respond to complaints under the authority of UW System rules and our campus policies as well as under Title IX. System rules and our campus policy will continue to apply to sexual misconduct whether it occurs on or off campus,” says Lauren Hasselbacher, who oversees campus response to sexual misconduct for the Office of Compliance.

The campus response to sexual harassment will continue to be handled by the Title IX program. The variety of services provided by the Title IX program includes the work of recently hired case manager, Tucker Copi, who helps students and employees who’ve experienced sexual misconduct gain access to academic and workplace assistance as well as protective measures, such as no-contact directives. Copi also provides referrals to confidential campus resources such as UHS Survivor Services and the Employee Assistance Office.

UHS Survivor Services will continue to provide all of its existing confidential support services to student survivors.

“We want survivors and their friends and allies to know that UW–Madison is still committed to providing the full range of supportive measures, regardless of whether they choose to pursue a formal complaint or whether a complaint would be covered under Title IX,” says Sarah Nolan, director of mental health services at UHS. Supportive measures for students include counseling and victim advocacy.

“Eligibility for services has not changed, and we encourage students to contact UHS for help if they have experienced any form of sexual misconduct on or off campus or if they have questions about the nature of their experiences,” Nolan adds.

Relevant sections of the University of Wisconsin System Administrative Code have been updated. The university has updated the campus policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence to reflect these changes.

In response to the new requirements, UW–Madison has done the following:

  • Maintained its broader policy scope, allowing UW–Madison to respond to misconduct that occurs off campus and outside the United States which would otherwise not be covered by the Title IX regulations.
  • Maintained a definition of sexual harassment that covers a broader category of misconduct than the more limited definition required by the Title IX regulations.
  • Updated campus policy to prohibit sexual exploitation, which is defined as attempting, taking, or threatening to take nonconsensual sexual advantage of another person. Examples include, but are not limited to, photographing/recording someone else’s private body parts or sexual activity without their consent and inducing incapacitation through deception (for example, by adding drugs to a drink) to make someone vulnerable to non-consensual sexual activity.
  • For sexual misconduct hearings, if a complainant or respondent does not have an advisor, UW–Madison will provide an advisor to conduct cross-examination on their behalf during the disciplinary hearing.
  • The mandatory reporting requirements of “Responsible Employees” under the campus policy have not changed, and those individuals will continue to have reporting obligations to the Title IX Coordinator when they receive reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

The Office of Compliance will continue sharing information about policies and resources through its website and through campus trainings and outreach.

“We understand that students, faculty and staff may have questions and we’re here to respond,” says Hasselbacher. “We’ve worked to ensure our policies are equitable and protect the due process rights of both parties. And we’re committed to helping survivors understand all of their options – including confidential support resources ­­– so they can decide what makes sense for them.”