To: Students, Faculty, and Staff
From: Eric D. Isaacs, Provost
Subject: Message about Sexual Misconduct
Date: September 24, 2015
The University of Chicago assigns fundamental value to creating and sustaining an open environment where people can thrive and ideas are developed and rigorously tested. Acts of sexual misconduct, which encompass a range of conduct from sexual assault to sexual harassment, violate the standards of our community and are unacceptable. The University is fully committed to taking the necessary action to prevent, correct, and address acts of sexual misconduct.
The University recently adopted substantial revisions to the Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct, effective on July 1, 2015. This most recent revision follows a 2014 consolidation of policies and disciplinary procedures. Developed by a faculty-student-staff committee and discussed with the Council of the University Senate, the new policy offers much clearer definitions of consent and confidentiality. It articulates new principles regarding consensual relationships between academic appointees and students. It also clarifies that there are no time limits for filing reports of sexual misconduct. The policy applies to all, and I encourage every member of this community to read the entire policy: http://harassmentpolicy.uchicago.edu/page/policy.
This past spring, students completed the University’s first climate survey on this topic, the Sexual Misconduct Survey: Attitudes, Knowledge and Experience. The results, which can be found along with the executive summary and the survey questions here, indicated that a considerable number of our students have experienced some form of sexual misconduct during their time at the University. These results, which are similar to the results of our peer institutions, are deeply troubling. The pervasiveness of these issues compels further action. We each must play a role if we are going to address sexual misconduct at the University.
During the Autumn quarter, Campus and Student Life (CSL) staff will convene student groups to discuss key findings from the Spring 2015 Climate Survey with particular attention to how these findings can best inform the University’s prevention and education strategies. I encourage everyone to review the survey results so that we can work together to address and prevent sexual misconduct. In addition, the University will release annual statistics regarding the reporting and resolution of sexual misconduct matters, and will launch an autumn quarter campaign to promote the availability of confidential resources, educate the community regarding consent, and increase awareness of intimate partner violence.
Over the summer, CSL has also developed new content for student orientation programs across all academic units, including O-Week in the College. The updated content emphasizes key concepts such as consent and how to access University resources, and benefits from student input and the findings of the climate survey. CSL has also launched a new student-centered website, largely in response to student requests to present University policies, procedures, services, and resources more clearly and concisely.
The executive summary referenced above details several additional efforts that we will undertake to address the issues raised in the Climate Survey and to ensure that the University’s response to reports of sexual misconduct is purposeful and effective. We must use this opportunity to renew our commitment to creating a community focused on inquiry and discourse, free of unlawful harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct.