New student disciplinary processes examined for sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination

Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum and Karen Warren Coleman, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services, announced that the University is examining new student disciplinary processes for cases of sexual misconduct and unlawful harassment and discrimination.

Rosenbaum and Coleman said that the modifications under consideration reflect the experiences and advice of student advocates, faculty who sit on disciplinary committees, and deans, who have highlighted the need for special expertise in cases of sexual misconduct and discrimination, and called for University-wide procedures.

One modification would create a role for a dedicated specialist, under the leadership of the Dean of Students in the University. Another would create a University-wide disciplinary committee with specific preparation for these cases. The goal is to implement new processes by July 1.

The modifications also will address new requirements under federal law and a changing landscape in higher education. Last month, President Barack Obama announced a new task force to address sexual assault on college and university campuses.

The University of Chicago has addressed sexual misconduct and other forms of harassment and discrimination in a number of ways over the years, including the creation of student support programs such as the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call, the Bias Response Team and Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention.  

The current move to modify disciplinary processes builds on the work of faculty-student-staff committees that established the Sexual Assault Policy in 2006 and reviewed policies and student disciplinary structures in 2006 and 2010. In 2011, the disciplinary process was further modified to align it with requirements set out by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in its “Dear Colleague Letter.”

Efforts to identify new ways to bring expertise and the combined resources of the University to bear on the disciplinary process have been under way for several months. A faculty committee convened by Rosenbaum will review and advise on proposed process revisions. In a memo to fellow University leaders, Rosenbaum and Coleman highlighted the importance of these disciplinary processes to the University’s climate and culture.

“To sustain an academic community in which all students and scholars can participate freely and fully, the University has a particular commitment to addressing allegations and instances of sexual misconduct and unlawful harassment,” they wrote. “We engage these questions with a dual responsibility to protect the rights of all involved and to enhance our culture of free expression.”