UNC’s New Title IX Leader Talks On-Going Reforms To Sexual Assault Policies

By Rachel Nash Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm

CHAPEL HILL - In his first month as the UNC’s new Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Howard Kallem has taken on the challenge of heading up an expanding department charged with monitoring sexual harassment cases on campus.

This coming at a time when the pressure in on UNC leaders to make changes and reform current policies due to past controversy involving the handling of sexual assault cases.

Sexual assault on college campuses is currently an important topic of conversation, not only in Chapel Hill, but across our state and even in Washington D.C.

President Barack Obama recently announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the University level.

Prior to assuming the position at UNC in January, Kallem worked as Chief Regional Attorney of the District of Columbia Enforcement Office for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

“It has been an incredibly steep learning curve to understand all of the procedures and processes at the University and to just get a sense of the culture here,” Kallem said.

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

UNC’s Title IX Office is expanding in 2014 with Kallem and the most recent hire, Hilary Delbridge, the Title IX public communications specialist, coming on board.

Delbridge’s hire sparked criticism on campus. Andrea Pino, who co-filed a Title IX complaint in January 2013 criticizing UNC’s handling of sexual assault, told the Daily Tar Heel that it was merely a PR position. Pino suggested that the University needed to stop treating “scandals as scandals” and focus on fixing its problems internally.

Kallem said that the communications officer position is not a just a “PR job,” rather, he said Delbridge will serve as liaison to hear from the community about “what we [the office] are doing right and what we could be doing better.”

The Title IX Office is in the process of filling two additional positions—another case investigator and a program coordinator to help with training.

“I have to say that it is quite unusual for the University to devote this level of resources to this issue, which is why I took the job,” Kallem said. “Most colleges will have a Title IX coordinator. They are required to do so by Title IX law, but it is often someone who is an assistant athletic coach, or they might be in the human resources department, and it is the second or third responsibility for them.”

Since the spring of 2013, UNC’s Title IX Task Force has been working to address student-on-student sexual misconduct.

The 22-member task force is broadly based, including students, faculty, and staff members who specialize in this area.

Chair of the Task Force, Christi Hurt, served as interim Title IX Coordinator and is also director of the Carolina Women’s Center. Kallem, who has been to two Task Force meetings, said he is benefiting from the work that Hurt has done.

The Task Force is taking time to develop a complaint process that is tailored to the needs and concerns of the students, Kallem said, rather than to those of the administration.

“The goal is to come up with a policy that the community will be into. The way to do that is to have input from the various segments in building the policy from the very start,” he said. “I think all those have the building blocks certainly to develop a process here and change the culture here in a way that could be very interesting and unique in the country.”

Kallem said there has been frustration expressed on campus about the progress of the Task Force, with some members of the UNC community wanting to see results of its work sooner. Kallem explained that there are still issues that need to be addressed, such as the judication process of complaints.

Once the policy has been rewritten, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.

Kallem did not have an anticipated completion date for the work of the Task Force.

“There are lots of pieces already here that are addressing the issue. My challenge is to knit them together into a comprehensive approach and identify any gaps where we can improve.”

The Task Force is also trying to ensure compliance with the UNC System’s statewide reforms.

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