August 15, 2014
To: University of Denver community
From: Gregg Kvistad, Interim Chancellor, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
As you may be aware, a petition recently circulated in the University community asking the senior administration to take a more active role in preventing and investigating sexual assault at the University of Denver. The petition was circulated in response to media reports of the University’s comments on the Title IX lawsuit filed earlier this year.
My colleagues and I in the senior administration of the University share the deep concern about the problem of sexual assault and harassment at college campuses across the country. Clearly, this is one of the most important issues now facing higher education, and the University of Denver must and will do everything possible to address its many dimensions. The University must provide – and almost certainly expand – resources not only to process complaints appropriately, but importantly to lend compassionate and skilled assistance to victims of sexual assault and harassment. The University must be an environment in which victims feel safe to report sexual assault or any other crime, and, when they do so, they must feel they have been treated with respect and dignity during the entire process.
More than a decade ago, the University of Denver adopted a zero-tolerance policy with regard to sexual harassment and violence both on and off campus. The policy built on the recommendations of the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of sexual discrimination complaints. The Department of Education is currently updating its recommendations, and the University of Denver is committed not only to comply with those recommendations, but also to become a leader in the prevention, investigation, and processing of cases of sexual assault. We must also strengthen our cultural values of respect, shared responsibility, and accountability for students, faculty, and staff.
The University has a number of excellent resources already available to help survivors and the University community to deal with the multiple dimensions of sexual assault. The Center for Advocacy, Prevention, and Empowerment (CAPE) is perhaps our most important but certainly not our only resource. To learn what more we need to do, we have recently engaged two of the most informed consultants in the country – Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez, partners in the law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP – to perform an audit of our current policies and practices.
In the meantime, I and my colleagues are meeting with faculty members, staff members, and student leaders – including those who drafted the petition – to begin a serious, wide-ranging, and inclusive dialogue on the problem of sexual assault and harassment on college campuses, and at DU specifically. We will be looking at policies, practices, support systems, our adjudication process, and how best to create a culture that prevents sexual abuse and harassment. As this work gets underway, I will be keeping Chancellor Chopp briefed so that she is fully aware of our progress, and the work that remains to be done, when she begins on September 1. I know that she passionately shares our commitment to ensure that DU creates a safe, sensitive, fair, and responsive environment for all members of our community.
I invite us all to join together to address sexual assault and harassment and to create a culture in which every individual will be treated with respect and dignity. We will continue to update you on the audit, the dialogue, and measures that the University is adopting, and I hope you will feel free to send your suggestions and ideas to TitleIX@du.edu. Thank you for your attention and contributions as we further strengthen our understanding and response to this very serious issue.