USC updates policies on discrimination and harassment

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Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violence.

USC instituted several changes to its policies regarding discrimination and harassment, including expanded definitions and new reporting directives, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Felicia Washington wrote in a communitywide email Tuesday.

The changes mainly account for sexual misconduct and gender-based discrimination reports but also cover other forms of discrimination and retaliation, including those based on race, religion and disability.

Washington’s announcement includes a new requirement that the University publicly acknowledge reports of sex discrimination “when it has constructive notice” and update definitions of “certain forms of sexual misconduct” — ranging from sexual assault to domestic violence. The University will also implement an expanded reporting process called the Centralized Reporting Directive, which will require employees to forward all “information about sexual or gender-based harassment and violence” to the University’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX within 72 hours of being informed. 

Additionally, beginning in April, University supervisors will forward “any past complaints or reports of sex discrimination” since Jan. 1, 2016 to EEO-TIX.

The affected policies — the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation and Resolution Process for Sexual Misconduct — were changed to comply with new California laws, according to Washington. But the changes also come after multiple sexual assault and drugging reports at fraternities last semester led to mass student protests, as well as criticism of the University’s “troubling delay” in reporting the assaults.

“My team and I will follow up with supervisors in the coming weeks with additional details and specific training,” Washington wrote. “I want to thank each of you for doing your part to ensure centralized reporting, which is the foundation of an inclusive and diverse University community where discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are not condoned, tolerated, or enabled.”