UM System implements new Title IX policies

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COLUMBIA - New University of Missouri system sexual harassment policy changes went into effect Monday. 

The changes come months after MU made national headlines for its lack of response to an alleged sexual assault of an MU swimmer who later committed suicide.

MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said in a mass statement to students last week, "Since I took office more than six months ago, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and I have worked hard to evaluate and review our policies and resources related to sexual assault and mental health and, as a result, we have instituted sweeping changes to ensure the well-being of our community."

The largest change to the sexual harassment policy is intended to strengthen the University of Missouri's Title IX nondiscrimination policies and clarify incident reporting procedures. One of the mandates requires everyone on campus, except counselors and health care workers, to report sexual harassment incidents to the Title IX Coordinator.

UM System Chief Communications Officer John Fougere said employees are working to train the faculty members to know how to respond to reports.

"We understand, though, there are still a lot of questions out there like how to write a report, who do I actually go to, so we're going to clarify that as we go forward with this training," Fougere said.

The UM system is beginning an online program to train faculty on responding to sexual harassment incidents. 

"It's our responsibility that we're leading the way when it comes to Title IX reporting. We're going to make sure that other campuses and university systems across the country look at the University of Missouri system as a national exemplar of best practices when it comes to Title IX reporting," Fougere said.

Other policy initiatives include:

  • Training for students to respond to reports of sexual harassment incidents
  • Hiring a full-time Title IX coordinator and additional deputies, representing Student Affairs, Athletics, MU Health Care, and Human Resources/faculty
  • UM System President Wolfe identified and hired a nationally known consulting firm to advise us on the restructuring of our student conduct processes and give the system an independent analysis of all current resources moving forward
  • Creation of a sub-task force solely to examine how our Department of Intercollegiate Athletics handles student incidents and concerns, a committee which included an independent prosecutor, MU's coordinator of MU's Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center and the Associate Dean of the University's Law School
  • Reviewing how the Office of Student Conduct addresses cases involving sexual assault
  • Strengthening existing programs and resources aimed at preventing sexual assault and assisting victims
  • Reviewing the University's alcohol policies

Maxwell Little, MU graduate student, said he supports the University's decision to strengthen the policies.

"This issue right here is for everybody, not just girls," Little said. "I think it will help make the campus safer for everyone."

Loftin addressed the sexual assault investigation earlier this year of Sasha Menu Courey, former MU swimmer committed suicide after her family said she was sexually assaulted by other student athletes.

"Our focus now is to do everything within our power to prevent sexual misconduct of any type at Missouri and, if it does unfortunately occur, to provide the resources and support to the victim while assuring that the perpetrator is brought to justice," Loftin said.

Fougere said the sexual harassment reporting training is expected to conclude before the end of the fall semester.