The University of Iowa is taking action to streamline the process to report free speech violations, bias, discrimination, equity, and sexual misconduct.
The university is establishing an Office of Institutional Equity to centralize reporting, investigation, and support services for all civil rights, sexual misconduct, and Title IX concerns within the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI).
The change comes after the DDEI received feedback from the campus community. Recently, 12 hour-long “Journey to Unity” listening sessions were attended by 83 students, faculty, and staff selected by their college and unit leadership. Five areas of emphasis consistently surfaced:
- Expand the training of free speech and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) understanding
- Strengthen accountability in upholding institutional values
- Increase listening in the campus community and tell Iowa’s DEI stories
- Expand campus leadership DEI engagement and commitment to growth
- Actively build the Iowa City community as welcoming for all
“One consistent theme revealed in recent listening sessions was improving our ability to address civil rights, Title IX, and equity issues on campus,” stated Liz Tovar, executive officer and associate vice president, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “We will begin the process to align all our assets to provide effective and efficient support for the entire campus community.”
The new office will incorporate the current Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator, and aspects of the Office of Student Accountability related to Title IX complaints and investigations. The office will leverage the combined expertise of these teams to better address the needs of the institution through:
- A single, centralized complaint investigative team;
- Coordinating intake and record-keeping; and
- Improving response times to investigations.
The new office will be formed throughout the spring and summer semesters, and the reorganization will be complete in August 2021. Additional action items from the “Journey to Unity” listening sessions will be announced in the coming weeks and months.