The University of Hawaii at Manoa did not fully comply with federal law in its handling of complaints and reports of sexual harassment, according to a federal review covering cases from 2010 to 2016.
But the university has already taken most of the steps outlined in a compliance agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and is on track to complete the last requirement by the end of the year, according to university spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
The university announced the “voluntary resolution agreement” today and posted the document and a Feb. 8 letter of findings on its website. The Office for Civil Rights plans to post the document later this year on its website, Meisenzahl said.
UH has taken steps including creating an Office of Institutional Equity to oversee compliance at its 10 campuses, as well as a Title IX Office in 2015. It appointed a Title IX coordinator as well as confidential advocates on each campus. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.
“We thank the Office for Civil Rights for its willingness to work with us as we continue to improve,” UH President David Lassner said in a statement. “We have made tremendous strides, and the federal review guided much of that work along the way. But it is an ongoing process, and ultimately this is not just about being compliant but doing what’s right for our community to create a campus environment that is safe for all.”
The university has also conducted extensive training of staff and updated its sexual harassment and violence policy to ensure a consistent response systemwide, and is implementing a centralized record-keeping system.
The remaining requirement calls for UH to contact people involved in reports of sexual harassment and violence from Aug. 2013 to October 2017 to give them a chance to ask the university to review any specific concerns they have about how their cases were handled. UH Manoa expects to have that process completed by this December.
The letter of findings from the Office for Civil Rights highlighted the case of a student athlete who reported being raped by another student athlete. During its investigation, which took 159 days, the university banned the alleged perpetrator from all student housing but did not enforce that ban, according to the report.
He ultimately was dismissed from the school for the sexual assault and violating the interim trespass ban. The office said the university’s failure to enforce the ban resulted in the presence of a hostile environment for the student who had been assaulted.