Title IX Task Force Progress Update

October 13, 2021

Dear University Community, 

Every member of the University of South Carolina community deserves to feel secure on campus, and we must continually strive to create an environment that is, and feels, safe and welcoming to all. 

Several individual Title IX cases from the past have generated concern about the university’s approach to handling harassment claims. Although reviews of these Title IX complaints affirmed that internal administrative procedures for handling these cases were appropriately followed and were in compliance with laws and policies in place at the time of each investigation, we can and must do more to instill trust in our processes. We must continue to ask ourselves tough questions that drive us to learn from and improve our approach to creating a campus environment that’s safe for all. We are fully committed to doing that. 

In March, the university embarked on an effort to improve reporting, education and training related to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence. I’m grateful to the university’s Title IX Task Force and the Title IX Implementation Group — both of which included students, faculty and staff — for devoting thoughtful and focused attention to this critical issue. Our external consultants, the Cozen-O’Connor Institutional Response Group, also were instrumental in surveying our campus community and identifying effective practices for improving our approach to complex Title IX issues. The input received from our community was critical, and your candid feedback was key to shaping our progress. 

We can now share some of the positive changes we are implementing: 

  • Reorganizing the reporting structure, personnel and resources for our Office of Civil Rights and Title IX. A strong Title IX staff is a critical component for responding to interpersonal violence effectively, compassionately and in a manner consistent with our institutional values. Allocating additional personnel and resources to create a unified office that will have responsibility for sexual harassment reports under Title IX as well as protected-class discrimination and harassment will expand the resources to assist students, faculty and staff. We have already launched a nationwide search to identify a dynamic leader for the newly created Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, who will be elevated to the position of Assistant Vice President. This position will report to the Office of the President, and the new office will include at least one intake and outreach coordinator; an education and prevention coordinator; dedicated investigators and individuals trained to facilitate informal resolutions; and a database manager to assist with case management, assessment and reporting.

  • Improving mandatory training and Title IX educational initiatives. Complementing the mandatory Title IX training for students, a mandatory online training module will be available starting Monday, October 18, for all faculty, staff and new employees, so they better understand how to recognize interpersonal violence. Refresher trainings are planned on a biennial basis beginning in the fall of 2022. The newly formed Office of Civil Rights and Title IX also will ensure that ongoing training and education is tailored to specific audiences within our community and reflective of current regulations. More information on this required training will be sent to faculty and staff soon.

  • Improved communication. Involvement in a Title IX claim is distressing. We have improved communications to both complainants and respondents with the goal of fostering a more compassionate, transparent, thorough and fair process for all parties involved. The university has already made great progress in improving internal communication among the offices involved in Title IX-related matters. Last spring, the university created the Interpersonal Violence Continuum of Care Case Management group that meets weekly to discuss ongoing cases and supportive measures to ensure that all claims are monitored and that appropriate assistance is being provided.

  • Streamlined reporting. This fall, we are creating one consolidated form for all sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. This will make reporting easier for everyone, especially for those who may be in crisis and seeking immediate help.


These significant changes resulting from the work of Title IX Task Force represent a major step forward. But we are not done. The university is committed to continual improvements that will better support survivors, hold offenders accountable and empower individuals to make a difference. I encourage you to read the Title IX Task Force report and implementation plan to learn more about our ongoing efforts. 

If you or someone you know has been subjected to interpersonal violence, please know that around-the-clock, confidential help is available. Visit our interpersonal violence site to learn how to support survivors, report abuse or to speak directly with an advocate. 

Our work in this area is ongoing. We are committed to listening, learning and improving how we support the health and safety of every member of the Carolina community. We will always welcome your feedback, and we will continue to work together for the betterment of our university. 

Sincerely,

Harris Pastides
Interim President