The Daily Gamecock

New sexual harassment training required after Title IX Task Force released report

An aerial view of the Horseshoe located on the University of South Carolina's campus.
An aerial view of the Horseshoe located on the University of South Carolina's campus.

The university's Title IX Task Force released a report on Thursday stating that more than 1,000 reports of sexual violence or harassment were filed to the Equal Opportunities Program office between 2016 and 2020. Alongside the report, Interim University President Harris Pastides called for mandatory training on how to respond to sexual violence.

The expanded training will begin in the fall 2021 semester and will be a regular requirement for faculty, staff and students, according to an email Pastides sent on Thursday. Pastides outlined this and other recommendations following the findings in the report in an email to the USC community.

“From my review of both reports, I have directed the following actions: expedite the recruitment and selection of a permanent and highly skilled Director of Equal Opportunity programs, immediately begin the hiring process for a permanent Title IX coordinator, and expedite the improvement and implementation of the policies that guide our work in this area,” Pastides said.

Pastides also wants to continue to collect feedback from the USC community through the task force’s website, providing access to current data, and increasing campus communications about incidents of sexual assault, harassment, and interpersonal violence.

The Title IX Implementation Group was created to follow through with these actions. According to the university website, the group will "develop the specific actions and intended outcomes necessary to quickly implement improvements."   

A committee which will look specifically at faculty misconduct was formed in the faculty senate, according to Task Force Co-chair Audrey Korsgaard. Korsgaard is also the chair-elect of the faculty senate. 

The Title IX Task Force report provided an assessment of the university’s ability to respond to sexual harassment and offered recommendations as to how to improve that response. The Task Force was created by former university president Bob Caslen on March 26 and has 15 members representing students, faculty, and staff.

The report stated there were understaffed support units, a lack of communication and coordination between parties and information management that was "decentralized to a dysfunctional degree." Recommendations included evaluating and modifying the structure of systems involved in responding to sexual violence and improving data collection.

During a press briefing, Korsgaard said the Task Force focused on four "key areas." These were policies and protocols, wholistic management of data and structure and culture of organization were also key areas the task force looked at. 

Including mandatory training, Task Force Co-chair Kirsten Kennedy said the Task Force recommended specialized training for those in different positions relative to people involved in an instance of sexual violence. 

"We also are recommending targeted training for staff who interact directly with the affected parties as well as specialized training for managers who are charged with some responsibility for the employees who may be respondents," Kennedy said.  

Korsgaard said the current policy for the university’s response to sexual harassment is an umbrella policy statement and is being revised "as we speak."