PrintShareE-Mail This Page

Messages from the President

July 21, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

I write today to provide some updates on the progress of the College's Title IX initiatives. 

Appointment of New Lead Title IX Coordinator.  I am pleased to announce the appointment of Kim Schrader as the College's Title IX Coordinator, succeeding Associate Dean Lori Schroeder.  Dean Schroeder is stepping down from the Title IX work in order to concentrate her efforts on the academic affairs role that drew her into administration from the faculty years ago.  I am very grateful to Lori for her willingness to take on a new position last fall at a time of transition in the College's Title IX work and for her help in building the Title IX team.  Kim Schrader has served as a Deputy Coordinator and is well-positioned and trained to step in as the lead Coordinator at this time.

OCR Investigation.  As you may have read in the news media, since the initial announcement of 55 schools under investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the number has grown to 68. After the site visit by the OCR, we have continued to provide information in response to the OCR's requests as part of the process for resolution of the matter. As is typical when a school is under investigation, additional complaints involving Knox have been filed with the OCR and are under investigation; the College is cooperating fully with the OCR in these cases as well. Next Steps. We are working on revisions in our policy and procedures to address the April 29, 2014 guidance that came from the OCR and the Campus SaVE Act, as well as the advice and counsel of participants in the process last year and the perspectives of Knox faculty, staff and students. Among these revisions are clarifications of the steps the College will take to determine how best to honor student requests for confidentiality while still providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. As we receive new guidance and advice from the OCR, we will continue to incorporate that guidance as well.

The Office of Student Development is developing additional proactive measures aimed at continuing to build a culture of campus respect and safety.  These initiatives build on the work of student activists against sexual violence in organizations such as SASS and ASAP dating back a number of years, and the commitment of this administration to support and expand those efforts. OSD staff are focusing on programs beginning with Orientation and continuing through the "Red Zone," the 6-week period at the beginning of the term in which national research suggests that the risk of sexual violence tends to be higher. Through the rest of the upcoming academic year, new programming will be introduced based on learning objectives which include inclusion and diversity, sexual respect, alcohol and other drugs education and prevention, and peer education.  Look for active bystander training, consent and communication workshops, RA and OL training, Greek educational programs, the Prairie Fire Excellence series, outside speakers and programs, online learning opportunities, and other planned initiatives.  Also look for education programs and materials that assist faculty and staff in fulfilling their duty to report as responsible employees while addressing requests for confidentiality in a manner that is consistent with Title IX and OCR guidance.

I want to take this time to thank everyone on campus who has participated in anti-discrimination efforts. This work is time-consuming and often challenging as we seek to adapt to a changing compliance environment. Nonetheless, it is essential work at the core of our mission as a college. While we cannot eliminate the pain experienced by those who have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct, we can commit ourselves as a community to the goal of making Knox a campus free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct for all.

Best,

Teresa

May 23, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

Thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who met with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) representatives during their site visiton Wednesday and Thursday. Shortly before the site visit ended on Thursday afternoon, we asked about the timeline for the OCR's resolution and when we might expect to hear back from them.  The OCR was not able to give us an estimate, but the OCR staff indicated that they hoped to work as quickly as possible knowing that the College was eager to receive their findings and guidance.  

As I promised in an earlier communication, we asked the OCR representatives for further guidance on the question of whether faculty members are required to report alleged or suspected incidents of sexual assault or sexual violence to a member of the Title IX team, and the OCR confirmed that this is indeed required.  For those who wish to report on a confidential basis, I remind the community that information about confidential reporting sources is available here ​ (scroll down to the section on confidential reporting)​.  

We expect that there may be additional requests for information and clarification as a result of the OCR's interviews and meetings (i.e., the focus groups, meeting with SASS, and office hours) and will respond in the same spirit of collaboration with which we have approached the investigation to date.  

I thank you again and invite you to contact me or the College's Title IX Coordinator, Lori Schroeder, with any questions you might have.

Teresa

April 30, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

I am writing today with an important announcement to the Knox community. This past January, the College was informed by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (Region V) that it had opened an investigation into a complaint alleging that Knox College had discriminated on the basis of sex in its response to a complaint of sexual misconduct. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has asked to review a number of College records, including College policies and procedures. Since January, the College has worked diligently to comply with the OCR's requests for information and has made available the requested materials. As is typical of its fact-finding in these types of matters on college campuses, the OCR will conduct a site visit the week of May 19th to interview College officials with regard to the allegations and to meet with selected groups of students to discuss their experiences.

Starting this past summer, the College undertook a significant review of its policies addressing discrimination under Title IX and, in particular, identified ways that we could strengthen our response to acts of sexual misconduct. To that end, we have trained a number of individuals to join our Title IX team and charged them with working to keep our campus free from discrimination and harassment. The College also formed a Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response that meets weekly under the leadership of Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder. The Task Force, in conjunction with the Title IX team, has developed a number of new initiatives: new print and web materials, campus-wide educational events, bystander intervention training, a confidential support group for survivors, and a new position for a counselor for violence prevention and educational outreach.

Over the years, the higher education community has learned a great deal from the improvements in campus practices adopted by colleges and universities working in partnership with the Office of Civil Rights. I know I speak for the entire Knox community when I pledge the College's full cooperation with the OCR's inquiry and our shared goal of providing a safe and respectful educational climate for every member of the Knox community.

For more information on the OCR's visit to campus, please read this FAQ. If you have questions about the upcoming site visit and review, I encourage you to contact the President's Office.
 
Sincerely,
Teresa

April 29, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

You may recall my January 27 message informing the campus community that President Obama had convened the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in response to the unacceptably high level of sexual violence on our nation's campuses. The President called on all of us to be a part of the solution to this problem, noting that ending sexual assault would require a fundamental change in our culture. Over the past few years, the Knox community -- student advocates, faculty, and staff -- has worked to bring about this change, and our work is ongoing. 

Today, the White House has released the Task Force's first report, entitled Not Alone, and an associated Fact Sheet.  These two documents include important recommendations, checklists, and toolkits for campuses in four areas: 

  1. Identifying the scope of the problem on college campuses;
  2. Helping to prevent campus sexual assault; 
  3. Helping schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted; and 
  4. Improving and making more transparent the federal government's enforcement efforts. 

The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education, which is charged with enforcing Title IX, has also released a very helpful document entitled Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Taken together, these documents provide clear and specific guidance that will be very important as our campus community continues its work in these areas. I encourage every member of the Knox community to read these documents and to consider how you might participate in the College's ongoing efforts. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in these extensive efforts, especially the student advocates, faculty, and staff members who are members of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the Title IX Team. The Task Force, in conjunction with the Title IX team, has already developed a number of new initiatives: new print and web materials, campus-wide educational events, bystander intervention training, a confidential support group for survivors, and a new position for a counselor for violence prevention and educational outreach. We all recognize and appreciate that these are just the first steps and that changing a culture will require our best and ongoing efforts.

As part of that ongoing work, I have asked Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder to review the White House recommendations with the Knox Title IX Team and the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.  We will be back in touch with the campus with the results of our review and next steps.

Together we will live up to the promise of equity, safety and respect for every member of our campus community.

Teresa



February 26, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

I write today with an update on our overall review of the ways in which Knox responds to and works to prevent discrimination, harassment and violence on our campus. An important part of that review has been to work with Title IX experts in order to incorporate into our policies and procedures the emerging guidance from the Department of Education and the best practices that our peer institutions are putting into place. The first group of revised policies and procedures can be found here on the Knox website, along with my previous messages to the campus on these topics. As you will see, the majority of the changes address student-to-student allegations of violations of Knox policy regarding Title IX, and we are now in the midst of preparing the parallel changes in the Employee and Faculty Handbooks. We are also building our Title IX Team, adding individuals across campus who will receive special training in these matters. As new members of the team are added, the website will be revised with their contact information.

Since the DOE guidance and the best practices are evolving, Knox, like other colleges, will continue to make revisions and updates in order to serve our community better and come closer to our goal of a campus free from all kinds of sexual misconduct. We are also working on ways to ensure that this information is readily available on the new Knox website which we will launch later this summer.

The newly formed Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response chaired by Dean Lori Schroeder, Knox's Lead Title IX Coordinator, is focused on planning and implementing a coordinated institutional education and outreach campaign around these issues. As part of this mandate, the Task Force is working on a series of brochures, posters and flyers that will be distributed across the campus in the coming months. Each of these communications will be aimed at specific audiences and will focus on elements such as how to find confidential help, how to report an incident, and what supportive resources are available on campus and in the larger community. As those are completed, we will also provide parallel online material so that every member of the community knows where to find the information they need. The Task Force is also providing input into other programmatic initiatives to better support students, faculty and staff affected by discrimination and violence. I am grateful to the members of the Task Force for their commitment to these issues and look forward to seeing the fruits of their work.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Dean Schroeder at lkschroeder@knox.edu or to me. Thank you again for your attention to this important matter.

Teresa


February 17, 2014

Dear Knox Colleagues,

On November 27th of last year and January 27th of this year, I updated the campus on the College's efforts to develop and advance our compliance with Title IX and to provide all of our students with an educational environment that is free from discrimination of all types. We continue to make strides in our compliance efforts, and I am grateful to the efforts of everyone who has worked on this initiative with me. Making Knox a better place truly resonates with our history of access and excellence.

Along those same lines, I write today to tell you of an important opportunity we have to continue to improve the Knox educational environment. In cooperation with the College's principal insurer, United Educators (UE), all Knox employees will have access to online training regarding sexual harassment awareness and prevention. Because this training is of the utmost importance to our community, I am directing that all employees participate in this online training and complete the required program by Monday, March 31, 2014.

To access the training, please use the link below.

https://www.edurisklearning.org

You will need to "create a new account" on the lower right side of the screen.

  • Use registration code 0593-SE37-XY12
  • Provide specific information about your role at the institution
  • Create a personalized username and password

Once you enter the EduRisk site, click on the "Learning Programs" tab in the upper left side. To the right side of that page, you will see an entry for Workplace Harassment Prevention and a link titled Launch Learning Program. Afterwards, hourly staff should select the training link for 110; faculty and salaried staff should select the training link for 113.

In true Knox fashion, we are already off to a good start as nearly one-third of all Knox employees have participated in the training since September 2013 and have received certification. The success of the program thus far leads me to believe that with a concerted effort on the part of supervisors and individual employees, we can meet the March 31st deadline. I am asking supervisors to work with their staff to ensure that they are aware of the need for this training and that adequate time and access to computers is given to employees to participate. I anticipate that the online training will take no more than one hour. Hourly employees will be paid for the time required for the training.

Why is this important?
Most of all, this is important because of our mission and history: we are committed to a campus environment that is free from discriminatory behaviors and actions that are harmful to individuals and to our community as whole and that undermine our mission as a college. In addition, as an institution, Knox has a degree of responsibility for the actions of its employees (faculty and staff) and even guests (visitors, contractors, etc). The responsibility is not absolute but under the law, Knox-like any other employer-must take reasonable steps to address and prevent behaviors and actions on campus that are illegal under federal and state laws, and especially so when it has reason to believe or actually knows of illegal behavior.

Knox employees and students need to know that there are steps that can and must be taken to ensure that no individual at Knox is subjected to discriminatory behavior. The online training offered by United Educators (UE) will help all members of the Knox community with 1) understanding what constitutes sexual harassment, 2) identifying the behaviors or indicators of sexual harassment, and 3) understanding the appropriate ways to address the occurrence of sexual harassment.

Finally, participation and completion of UE's online training will help Knox demonstrate that as an institution, we are taking the proper risk management steps necessary to help decrease the risk of potential claims of sexual harassment on our campus. As a community, our participation in the online training will help the College maintain its insurability and help keep our insurance premiums as low as possible.

Questions/Follow Up
If you have any questions regarding signing up for the training or the content of the material provided, or have any follow up questions/comment that you would like to convey, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Gina Zindt or Barbara Schulze in Human Resources.

If You Would Like to Know More ...
There is a great deal of focus on college and university campuses these days regarding acts of a sexual nature and/or assault involving campus community members and especially those involving groups that are particularly vulnerable to such acts.

UE has provided its member institutions with statistics about the number of claims it receives from institutions of higher learning involving claims (i.e., lawsuits) of sexual harassment on campus. As you can guess, the number of claims is large and growing. UE has a duty to its member institutions to provide services such as awareness and prevention training that can have a demonstrative effect in reducing the number of incidents which can result in a claim situation.

Examples:

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' statement contained in a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) dated April 4, 2011 regarding sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: (http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.html)

The Freeh Report assessing the environment and the disregard for proper controls and reporting that led to the sexual abuse of minors on the campus of Penn State University: (http://progress.psu.edu/assets/content/REPORT_FINAL_071212.pdf).

I am grateful to you all for your cooperation with this initiative.

Teresa


February 1, 2014

As my earlier messages to the campus have noted, since last summer I have been working to update the campus policies, procedures and programming in the area of sexual harassment and violence. I am pleased that Dean Schroeder has convened the Task Force to bring student organizations, faculty and staff into this work and look forward to the recommendations from that group. I have also engaged a Title IX expert to work with us on the development of interim policies and procedures that are consistent with the Department of Education’s evolving guidance on matters such as remedies for victims, equity and fairness for all parties, timely and thorough investigation and notification, and education and training programs across the campus. We will be bringing these strengthened policies and procedures to various campus groups in addition to the Task Force in the coming month for review and comment. In addition, we continue to build our on-campus team and I am pleased to announce that Kim Schrader, Operations Director for Budget & Compliance in the Athletics Department, will join us as Deputy Coordinator, serving alongside Human Resources Director Gina Zindt and Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack.

Teresa


January 27, 2014

Dear Knox Community,

You may recall that last November, I wrote to announce that I was appointing Dean Lori Schroeder as our Title IX Coordinator, responsible for overseeing the College's ongoing commitment to gender equity and to ending sexual harassment. Last week, President Obama convened the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to address the unacceptably high level of sexual violence on our nation's campuses. In his remarks, the President referred to estimates that 1 in 5 college women have been sexually assaulted during their college years, but only 1 in 8 report the assault to law enforcement. At the same time, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report outlining the dimensions of the problem and steps that can be taken to address it. I encourage every member of the Knox community to read the report, which can be found here.

The President called on all of us to be a part of the solution to this problem, noting that ending sexual assault would require a fundamental change in our culture, "a shift in our attitudes about how we think about sexual violence, and how much we value the lives and dignity of our wives and sisters and daughters and sons."

Since I last wrote, Dean Schroeder has invited a task force of faculty, staff and students to work with her on ways to shift the campus culture. The Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response will begin with a campus climate survey intended to shed light on the issue of sexual violence and on the efficacy of the Knox programs that have been developed to prevent and to respond to sexual violence. You will be hearing more from us as the Task Force meets and makes recommendations on how we can improve our campus response to sexual violence.

Dean Schroeder and I welcome your suggestions on how Knox can become a safer and more respectful place, a campus free of sexual violence of all types.

Teresa



November 27, 2013

Dear Knox Community,

As the issues of sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence are much in the news these days, I wanted to write to let you know about our efforts over the past year as we seek to provide all of our students with an educational environment that is free from discrimination of all types. This is not only Knox's obligation under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, but, more important, it is at the core of our own historic mission of access and excellence.

I am pleased to announce that Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder has agreed to take on the role of Title IX Coordinator at the College. Her duties will include overseeing training and education regarding Title IX, ensuring the integrity of the process of addressing all Title IX complaints, and submitting a written report of findings and recommendations for disciplinary and/or corrective action to the appropriate College officer (such as the Dean of the College or the Dean of Students). In this work, Dean Schroeder will be assisted by Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack and Director of Human Resources Gina Zindt, who will serve as Deputy Coordinators. Together, these three will manage the day-to-day responsibilities associated with Title IX, with particular emphasis on cases involving gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking.

These three individuals will work closely with me and with Bob King (serving as Special Counsel to the College) on all our Title IX efforts to foster a culture of respect, accountability, equity, fairness and concern on the Knox campus. Along with Deans Behling and Southern, all of us have completed an extensive training course in Title IX Coordination from the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf and Officer Cassidy Voyles have also taken this course and in addition have received special training to investigate Title IX complaints in accordance with the best practices identified by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education.

During this fall term, we have met with the Student Life Committee to keep them apprised of our progress. We have revised our published Grievance Procedures to align them more closely to the current guidance from the Department of Education, trained members of the Grievance Panel, and consulted with external experts on Title IX investigation, adjudication, and enforcement. These are only the first steps, and there are more to come, especially involving education across the entire campus, so please stay tuned as we seek your input and participation in our efforts.

Teresa