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Seven years later: Office of Civil Rights' Title IX monitoring at UNC closes

DTH Photo Illustration. The U.S. Department of Education has enacted new changes to Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. The U.S. Department of Education has enacted new changes to Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education.

Two years after the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights found UNC in violation of Title IX, the office’s monitoring program of the University has closed. 

The OCR said in a letter on Sept. 21 that UNC had fulfilled the requirements of the 2018 agreement and that “no further monitoring of the University’s compliance with the Agreement is required.” 

Four former students and former Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning first filed a complaint with the Department of Education in 2013, claiming UNC fostered a hostile environment for students who report sexual assault. 

In 2018, UNC was found in violation of Title IX due to its failure to adopt and publish procedures to provide “prompt and equitable resolution” of complaints of sexual harassment, including sexual violence. 

Under former Chancellor Carol Folt, UNC entered into a resolution agreement with OCR in 2018 and agreed to monitoring by the office, as well as the following actions

  • “Give clear notice to employees, students and third parties about our sexual harassment and sex discrimination policies;
  • Give concurrent written notice of all stages of the grievance process;
  • Provide a more refined description of the voluntary informal resolution process;
  • Expressly state that a dean, director or department chair may not reject investigative findings and recommendations of corrective actions in complaints against employees;
  • Provide links to descriptions of appeal procedures.” 

Though the monitoring program is officially closed, some of the complaint's original filers said they want students to know the need to hold UNC accountable is not over. Here's what the program meant, and what University activists say that means for the future. 

What did the monitoring program consist of? 

UNC agreed for the OCR to review and approve updated Title IX policies and procedures following the 2018 resolution, Director of Title IX Compliance Adrienne Allison said in a statement. 

This included in-person visits from the OCR, interviews and additional data or reports if necessary, Allison said. 

Howard Kallem formerly worked for the Office of Civil Rights for 20 years, before serving as UNC’s Title IX coordinator in 2014. 

Kallem said monitoring programs consist of reporting requirements with set deadlines. The OCR then evaluates the reports submitted by the University and determines if the institution has complied with the terms of the agreement. 

"Ideally the University convinces OCR that it has complied with the agreement, and then OCR will issue a letter saying, 'Yes, they satisfied the terms of the agreement,'" Kallem said. 

Kallem said OCR's oversight of universities is conducted through complaints and investigations. OCR can receive individual complaints or class complaints about discrimination. 

Agreements consist of specific actions that the University must take, he said. Monitoring, on the other hand, consists of evaluating whether those steps were taken. From Kallem's perspective, UNC's two-year monitoring program was quick.

"We know that was made easier by the agreement being relatively short and limited to specific steps that it could take," Kallem said. 

Allison said OCR continues to enforce Title IX at universities.

Future activism 

While federal institutions can hold the University accountable through monitoring programs, Manning said this pressure at UNC has historically come from students and alumni. 

She said UNC has made progress in handling sexual assault since she originally filed the complaint with the Department of Education. 

“Back in 2013, there was not even a Title IX Office — that whole entity did not even exist,” she said. 

Now, she said UNC should strive for more than just compliance.

Annie Clark, one of the original filers of the complaint, said it’s difficult to know if UNC has fulfilled its promises made after the 2018 resolution. 

“It's very hard for me to know exactly how much UNC has changed and its implementation because I'm no longer a student on campus,” Clark said. “This is a case we filed in 2013. It's now 2020.”

Clark said the closure of the monitoring program means students and activists must stay vigilant — and she doesn’t want all the past work put in to be for nothing. 

“If we don't pay attention, then history is going to repeat itself,” Clark said. 

UNC was found in violation of the Clery Act in August 2019, stemming from the same 2013 federal complaint, and entered into a $1.5 million settlement in June. The report reviewed the University's Clery Act compliance between 2009 and 2017. 

Following the finding of this violation, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz committed to several changes such as developing an enhanced training schedule for UNC Police; including continued training with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center; and establishing a new vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, a position filled by George Battle III in January. 

UNC will continue to be monitored by the Department of Education for its Clery Act compliance until the department is satisfied that areas of concerns have been addressed.

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