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On Title IX compliance

I am Duke’s new Director of Title IX Compliance and I would like to introduce myself and share a bit about what Duke is doing in this area. I coordinate the University’s compliance with Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act,and the University’s own policies and procedures. This includes requirements regarding education, prevention, and response to sexual harassment (including sexual or gender based violence), domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Title IX and University policies cover much more, though—they prohibit discrimination based on sex in classrooms, in athletics and in every other facet of the University’s programs and activities.

Don’t be misled by my title—while it refers to compliance with Title IX, the University is committed to more than just compliance. Duke has worked for years to create and sustain a safe environment for students and employees alike, one in which everyone can learn and work free from discrimination and harassment. The Sexual Misconduct Task Force, created more than seven years ago, has been but one vehicle for students to have a meaningful voice in helping the University address its formal and – more importantly – ethical obligations. The Women’s Center’s PACT training has done much to raise awareness on campus and the Center, Student Health Services and Campus Health continue to provide support and resources for survivors. Duke Police receive ongoing training on how to respond to incidents of sexual and gender based violence.

The University’s commitment has only increased in the recent months. This includes not only my new position in the Office for Institutional Equity, but the hiring of an additional position in the Office of Student Conduct to work with students during the complaint process to ensure a thorough investigation and resolution that provides a fair process to all parties. Together with a new position in the Women’s Center, OSC and OIE will work to increase awareness about sexual and gender violence and related misconduct. The University is developing training for faculty and staff, exploring training specific to the needs of graduate students and researching options for evaluating the campus climate to help us determine what we are doing, where there are gaps in our efforts and what we can be doing better. We are working with Duke Student Government, the Graduate and Professional Student Council and others as we continue to look for ways to refine and improve our policies and procedures. You will hear more about these efforts in the weeks and months to come.

Education, training and response—one specific issue I would like to address regarding response is the training of those hearing sexual misconduct cases. As has been noted in these pages, a well-trained hearing panel is critical to providing students with the confidence that our procedures for resolving complaints are fair and balanced. Panelists are selected from the Undergraduate Conduct Board—as such, they are trained on the University’s student misconduct policies generally, including on how a hearing is conducted and their role in the hearing. They then receive additional training specific to adjudicating complaints of sexual and related misconduct. Together, the training covers how a hearing is conducted, their role in the process, preparation for a hearing, how to evaluate evidence, privacy and confidentiality, conflicts of interest, the importance of ensuring a fair process for both parties, the requirements of Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act. and Duke’s policies;evaluating evidence, assessing credibility, confidentiality, conflicts of interest. Training also focuses on evaluating evidence, assessing credibility, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, relevant definitions of terms such as sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, consent, incapacitation—including the possible impact of alcohol and drugs, the impact of trauma, the perspective of the respondent, how to be sensitive to the emotional state of both parties during the hearing process, tips on questioning, determining relevance and assessing credibility and sanctioning. The training is a combination of lecture, group discussions and case studies and is conducted by University staff with expertise in Duke’s hearings process generally and consultants with specific expertise in Title IX and sexual misconduct.

Adjudicating claims of sexual misconduct can be very complex, and this training is designed to address those complexities. Cases involving drugs or alcohol are but one example. The Student Sexual Misconduct Policy provides: “The perspective of a reasonable person similarly situated to the complainant and in consideration of the context of the behavior will be the basis for determining whether one should have known about the use of alcohol or drugs on another’s ability to consent.” Yes, this sounds complicated, but it reflects the complexity of deciding such cases—with the panelists thoroughly trained in how to interpret and apply it. At the risk of oversimplifying, it means that the respondent knew or reasonably should have known from the complainant’s behavior that the complainant was more than just intoxicated, but intoxicated to the point of incapacitation such that the complainant was unable to freely consent. Moreover, a representative of the Office of Student Conduct is present during every hearing to advise the panelists on procedural and substantive issues such as this that arise during the hearing and when they make their decisions, and to help ensure consistency in those decisions.

This is but a brief summary of some of the work Duke is doing to address sexual- and gender-based violence and related misconduct. If you have questions about the University’s efforts to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory learning and working environment, please contact me at

Howie Kallem is the Director of theTitle IX Compliance at the Office for Institutional Equity.


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