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UI to adjust response to sex assault after federal rules released

BY NINA EARNEST | APRIL 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials said they need to slightly adjust their sexual-assault response to bring it in line with federal regulations.

The move comes after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent a 19-page “Dear Colleague” letter to institutions of primary and secondary learning as part of a new administration initiative to address sexual violence on campuses.

The document discussed issues including preventing assault, allowing students to change classes after incidents, and reporting outcomes of investigations.

Monique DiCarlo, the UI sexual-misconduct-response coordinator, said she didn’t see any major differences between the UI policies and the federal guidelines. Instead, her initial impressions of the letter clarified policies and procedures with which universities nationwide have struggled in the past.

Federal officials specifically addressed universities’ necessity to proceed with their own investigations into violent incidents rather than waiting for the completion of a criminal proceedings.

“This letter provides guidance that you can’t wait for that,” DiCarlo said. “You have to go forward with your own process.”

Her office wants to see who has the responsibility of keeping victims informed with periodic updates.

UI Dean of Students David Grady said he noticed items that were both consistent and inconsistent with the UI policy. As did DiCarlo, he noted the need to stay in contact with the complaining party.

“We just want to make sure that our campus is safe,” he said. “We want to look at the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter and make sure we’re following what the expectations are.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the letter marked the first time an administration released extensive guidance for compliance with Title IX, the 1972 federal legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs and education.

“Every school would like to believe it’s immune from sexual violence, but numbers suggest otherwise,” Duncan said in a conference call Monday.

Vice President Joe Biden presented the new guidelines in a speech at the University of New Hampshire.

According to the letter, college campuses reported nearly 3,300 forcible sex offenses defined under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, said the letter could serve to create uniform policy in universities throughout the country.

“We need to have something consistent with this letter immediately so that we don’t have more cases where the system doesn’t work well,” she said.

The UI has come under criticism about its response to assaults in the past. The reportedly botched investigation into allegations of a sexual assault in Hillcrest resulted in the termination of two officials and a revamping of policies. DiCarlo’s position was created soon after.

Miller said the situation on the UI campus has improved in the past four years.

“There’s still a ways to go, and some serious areas that need attention,” she said. “But there is also generally much more collaboration throughout the university in working on the issue of violence against women and violence on campus.”


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