University Provost Sunil Kumar sent out a University-wide email detailing two leadership changes to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) on Aug. 7. In the email, Provost Kumar announced that Joy Gaslevic would become interim vice provost for institutional equity for the University. Formerly deputy Title IX coordinator, Linda Boyd was promoted to interim assistant vice provost for institutional equity and Title IX coordinator, filling Gaslevic’s previous roles.
These changes follow the departure of Kimberly D. Hewitt, former vice provost for institutional equity for the University. Gaslevic and Boyd began their new roles in July.
According to OIE, the office’s role is to ensure the University’s compliance with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws, to investigate discrimination and sexual harassment complaints and to serve as a resource for those with disabilities or those who require religious accommodations.
Gaslevic and Boyd issued a joint statement to The News-Letter highlighting their efforts to improve upon OIE’s previous work and their goals for their interim roles. The Provost’s Office is currently searching for a full-time replacement for Hewitt.
“We continue to identify ways to streamline OIE’s process while optimizing the quality of our work,” they wrote. “We also want to make the OIE process as clear and transparent as possible, and we continue to look for ways to enhance community member understanding and expectations regarding the OIE process.”
When asked about the alleged sexual misconduct by Professor Juan Obarrio, whose tenure was revoked this July following alleged Title IX violations, Gaslevic and Boyd declined to comment on individual cases. They affirmed that they would not be changing the process of addressing complaints against faculty, including those with tenure.
“The OIE investigative process under the Sexual Misconduct Policy & Procedures — which results in OIE providing recommendations to decision-makers regarding policy violations — is the same regardless of whether the Respondent is a student, staff, or faculty member,” they wrote. “At this time, we have no plans to change that.”
On the other hand, Gaslevic and Boyd revealed plans to launch bi-monthly office hours on the East Baltimore campus in October, to work with the Provost’s Sexual Violence Advisory Committee (SVAC) to launch a consent campaign and to explore options for expanding Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) for students.
The administrators also emphasized improvements made to OIE in the past two years. They cited increased staffing in the OIE office, clearing the backlog of pending cases and implementing new protocols to improve the timeliness of those processes as examples of initiatives that have improved OIE’s performance. They aim to build upon enhancements to size and visibility in the future.
“The timeliness of investigations and disposition of complaints is a key component of a strong climate,” they wrote. “We’ve also enhanced our counseling center services and staff, continued efforts to better inform the community about OIE and other resources, and required training for all faculty staff and students.”
When asked about past issues with confidential reporting and whether the administration would make improvements to the process, Gaslevic and Boyd explained OIE’s approach to requests for confidentiality. A complainant can request confidentiality if they do not want their name or other identifying information to be used or if they do not want OIE to take further action.
“While OIE’s preference is to honor a complainant’s confidentiality request, OIE must consider each request in light of the University’s commitment to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all members of the community,” they wrote. “In some cases, OIE cannot grant a request for confidentiality if doing so could result in an unaddressed threat to the university community.”
Gaslevic and Boyd noted that OIE offers interim measures and resources to complainants whether or not they continue to participate in OIE proceedings, and that there are confidential resources for students across campus such as the Counseling Center, University Mental Health and the Student Assistance Program.
Some students have had issues with anonymous reporting. Although they declined to comment on individual cases, Gaslevic and Boyd addressed the process for submitting anonymous reports, whereby OIE does not know the identity of the reporting party — the only case in which OIE considers complaints anonymous.
“We have added clarifying language to the Sexual Misconduct Policy & Procedures and within reporting forms stating than an individual wishing to make an anonymous complaint should not use their name, their JHU e-mail address, or other identifying information,” they wrote.
In addition, Gaslevic and Boyd noted that OIE will release a second report this semester to evaluate its progress since its first annual report last year. In the spring, the University will also release the results of the 2019 Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey, to which Hopkins and 32 other universities participated. According to the AAU website, the survey is expected to be the largest of its kind.
“AAU will also be releasing summary data from all schools who participated,” they wrote. “We can use institutional data to compare ourselves to our peers.”