History of Sexual Misconduct Response
Universities across the country face the enormous and high-stakes challenge of responding promptly, effectively, and equitably to sexual misconduct. In 2008, a report from a special counsel to the Iowa Board of Regents recommended changes in University of Iowa policies and procedures that included:
- A single, coordinating office and procedure to deal with all reports of sexual misconduct and related issues at the university
- Easily comprehensible information readily available to the university community about sexual misconduct reporting and investigation options
Consistent with these recommendations, an interim coordinator position was created in 2008 to manage the university’s response to reports of sexual misconduct. The position was intended to alleviate reporting and response confusion by making one person responsible for providing complaint options and investigation updates to complainants while ensuring the university follows its procedures and keeps the university president informed about campus climate and response effectiveness.
In June 2009, the coordinator position was institutionalized as the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator (SMRC) reporting to both the president of the university and vice president for student life. In January 2011, the role of the SMRC was codified in employment cases through the revision of the Sexual Harassment Policy.
The university has demonstrated a commitment to preventing interpersonal violence and strengthened its readiness and response when problems arise. As evidence of this commitment, the Anti-violence Coalition, with members spanning more than 30 offices, departments, and community agencies, meets monthly to ensure complacency is not the university's chosen path. The coalition continually revisits the topics of policy, prevention education, and response protocols, working from different frames and perspectives, but with a shared commitment to make this campus a safe place to study, work, and live.
The OSMRC was a three-time recipient of Campus Program funds through the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). OVW financial support and technical assistance have helped implement mandatory education for incoming students, training programs for law enforcement and judicial officers, and concerted efforts to strengthen a coordinated community response that includes law enforcement, the county attorney’s office, and victim service providers across the state.
In April 2021, the University of Iowa announced it was forming a new Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) under the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI) to streamline the process of reporting bias, harassment, discrimination, equity, free speech, and sexual misconduct concerns.
Effective July 1, 2021 the Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator (OSMRC), the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD), and two investigators of the Office of Student Accountability (OSA) related to Title IX complaints merged to become the OIE. Working together, the three units will provide a centralized complaint investigative team, a coordinated intake and record-keeping process, and improved response times to investigations. The Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator (OSMRC) is now the Office of Institutional Equity, Title IX and Gender Equity unit (OIE TIXGE).
The Office of Institutional Equity supports a campus environment where each individual's ideas, contributions, and goals are respected and valued. Much has been accomplished, but experience continues to inform practice. The history that guides us includes both our own experience and that of other institutions, and these resources continue to grow.