The University of Virginia will require most faculty and staff to report possible sexual misconduct they learn about from students, even if the students request confidentiality, under a policy announced this week.
Exceptions will be made for health-care and counseling personnel who are considered “confidential employees,” U-Va. president Teresa A. Sullivan wrote in an e-mail to the campus community. Students may talk privately with these designated employees, Sullivan said, without triggering the possibility of a formal internal inquiry.
But if students disclose potential incidents of sexual misconduct to “responsible employees” — meaning most faculty and staff — those employees are obligated to relay the information to a university coordinator in charge of compliance with the federal nondiscrimination law known as Title IX.
“Giving students these two options is an essential feature of the new reporting process,” Sullivan wrote. “We know that when a student experiences sexual misconduct and wants to talk to someone about it, the first conversation is important. Defining faculty and staff roles will help students decide whom to approach when seeking help. Some students may prefer to talk with a confidential source first, while others may want to pursue a more formal reporting approach.”
Clarifying how universities respond to reports of sexual misconduct — especially who must do what and when — has become an urgent issue on college campuses. The federal government is investigating 76 of colleges and universities nationwide, including U-Va., for whether they follow Title IX rules in their handling of sexual violence reports. Reports of forcible sex offenses on campuses have risen sharply in recent years.
Others in Virginia under investigation are College of William and Mary, James Madison University and the University of Richmond.
Federal officials have said universities are required to address sexual misconduct reports even if law enforcement agencies do not initiate a criminal investigation.