The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have reached a voluntary resolution agreement (VRA) to resolve a Title IX compliance review that began in 2013 and involved Title IX cases from 2010 through 2016.
OCR’s review found that UH Mānoa did not fully comply with the Title IX federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. OCR also acknowledged that since the inception of the compliance review UH has already taken actions to proactively address many of its obligations under Title IX through systemic changes to procedures, organizational structure and resources.
Throughout the compliance review, UH worked collaboratively with OCR, making many improvements during the 4 years with the strong support of state lawmakers and the UH Board of Regents. UH has already improved its policies and dedicated additional resources, including starting up a systemwide Office of Institutional Equity and a Title IX Office at UH Mānoa, to improve its ability to effectively respond to and support students and employees. By entering the VRA, UH Mānoa acknowledges there is still more to be done and commits to continue the important work of strengthening the university’s institutional capacity to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
“We thank the Office for Civil Rights for its willingness to work with us as we continue to improve,” said Interim UH Mānoa Chancellor and UH President David Lassner. “We have made tremendous strides, and the federal review guided much of that work along the way. But it is an ongoing process, and ultimately this is not just about being compliant but doing what’s right for our community to create a campus environment that is safe for all.”
The VRA identifies specific steps the university will take to resolve the issues identified, and OCR acknowledges that UH has already taken many steps toward completing the required actions. The five areas specified in the VRA along with the steps the university has taken or is taking to meet those requirements are:
1. Review, revise and provide notice of its policies and procedures used to address sexual harassment, so they are consistent with Title IX requirements, and conduct a comprehensive review of any published materials to ensure internal consistency.
- In 2015, the university created the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) to oversee and standardize UH’s Title IX and Violence Against Women Act compliance throughout the 10 campuses and provides resources, training, expertise and advocacy, including updating and strengthening policies and procedures.
- The university participated in a state legislative task force that assisted in passing 2016 legislation that mandated, among other items, Title IX training for students and staff, a confidential advocate at each campus and ongoing campus climate surveys.
- UH Mānoa appointed a primary Title IX coordinator and opened a Title IX office in 2015 responsible for handling cases and inquiries in a timely manner.
- In 2015, the university updated its sexual harassment and violence policy to apply the same standards and procedures systemwide and ensure a consistent institutional response across the 10 UH campuses. OCR has acknowledged that the university has already undertaken substantial revisions to its grievance procedure and has made improvements in case processing.
2. Provide training regarding revised policies and procedures to “responsible employees,” university employees and contracted persons who are directly involved in investigating and/or resolving reports of sex discrimination for the university.
- As of December 2017, the university has provided online Title IX training to 2,798 employees from the UH Mānoa campus and to 5,606 employees systemwide. Online Title IX training has been available to students and employees since 2017.
3. Conduct campus climate surveys relating to sexual harassment and sexual violence and report results to OCR.
- On January 20, 2017, the university launched a comprehensive student campus climate survey on sexual harassment and gender-based violence. 6,311 students completed the survey.
- On January 8, 2018, the university released its comprehensive systemwide student campus climate survey report on sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
- The university will continue to conduct campus climate surveys bi-annually.
4.Submit to OCR documentation of its centralized system for tracking and recording complaints, reports, investigations, interim measures and resolutions of student, employee and third party conduct that may constitute sexual harassment or sexual violence.
- The university has developed and is now implementing a centralized, homegrown record keeping system for use on all of UH’s 10 campuses.
5. Contact student complainants and student respondents who were involved in reports and complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, from August 2013, to October 2017, to provide them with the opportunity to request that the university review any specific concerns they may have about the processing of their reports or complaints.
- UH Mānoa will begin reaching out to the parties in spring 2018 and expects to have the process completed by December 2018.
- The university plans to collaborate with OCR to ensure appropriate attempts to contact the referenced complainants and respondents are made.
OCR will monitor UH Mānoa until it completes its obligations under the VRA. The OCR Letter of Findings is available online.