Twenty-nine of the 64 State University of New York campuses will modify their sexual assault policies and procedures to align with each other and with federal law, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced Thursday. The resolution agreement concludes a three-year compliance review, one of OCR’s “proactive” efforts undertaken not because of an individual complaint but because of a combined set of factors, among them SUNY's size. The agreement does not apply to SUNY’s community college campuses, each of which has its own governing board and financial structure. Still, it is OCR’s most impactful agreement to date in terms of reach: 219,000 students and 70,000 employees will be subject to the new policies. (Note: This item has been corrected from an earlier version to clarify that this was a voluntary agreement reached between SUNY and OCR.)
As part of the investigation, OCR reviewed 159 cases of alleged sexual harassment at four SUNY campuses. Officials found that in some instances complainants did not receive “prompt or adequate investigations,” did not receive notice of the outcome of their complaints, or were not provided equal opportunities to attend pre-hearing conferences or present evidence and witnesses at their hearing.
The agreement requires the campuses to make several adjustments to comply with Title IX, including: designating a Title IX coordinator at each campus; setting up procedures for 24-hour reporting; providing sexual harassment training for all staff; conducting annual climate reviews; and ensuring all students and staff know their rights and options under Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Those steps are more or less consistent with changes colleges entering resolution agreements have been ordered to make since OCR issued its April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.