With commencement and other end of academic year celebrations behind us, it is a good time to look ahead to the upcoming year. At the end of March, I shared the findings of an independent investigation, which in part evaluated Title IX efforts across the University System of New Hampshire. The report, among other findings, specifically identified the need for stronger coordination and collaboration related to all our Title IX efforts.
As we continue strengthening our important work related to Title IX, I am establishing a working group coordinated through the Office for Community, Equity and Diversity. The group leadership structure will include the Title IX coordinator and Human Resources director, with input from other key stakeholders, including the Prevention Innovations Research Center, university counsel, UNH Manchester, UNH Law, campus police and SHARRP. This group will address and respond to issues and recommendations outlined in the Title IX report released in March and will develop an overarching strategy for all Title IX functions. The group will create a collaborative structure that will connect all of our Title IX efforts, which is essential to ensuring success.
However, as I said in March, our work around Title IX must move beyond rules and simple compliance. While these things are important, we must address the broader and more complex factors in our culture that keep us from becoming the kind of community to which we aspire. A safe and healthy campus is one grounded in widely shared values and deeply rooted norms of behavior wherein people respect and take care of one another. To this end, I created a task force, under the leadership of Jaime Nolan, associate vice president for Community, Equity and Diversity, charged with generating recommendations for how we can build and sustain that sort of community. The task force will begin as a small working group that will meet throughout the summer to refine the charge and develop an action plan to establish the scope, process and objectives of the larger task force. The task force will organize listening sessions across all three of our campuses to address questions such as:
• What does a healthy, safe campus community look like?
• What obstacles to the creation of such a community exist?
• How can we overcome those obstacles?
These sessions will require coordination and collaboration across our campuses, and faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, and staff will all play significant roles in these discussions. These listening sessions, which will begin this fall, will be crucial in informing the work of the task force and a subsequent action plan.
The work of the Task Force on Community and the Title IX Working Group will contribute significantly toward addressing the complex needs of our community. Together we can build a university community that is welcoming and safe for all.
Mark W. Huddleston