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Initiatives for Preventing and Responding to Discrimination and Harassment

We look forward to a year of working together, treating each other with kindness, and listening to and reflecting on the experiences of others in our community.”

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community,

As we begin a new academic year, we write to reaffirm the University’s commitment to creating education, work, and living environments where people are treated with dignity and respect. To that end, the University prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of 16 protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, and genetic information. Sexual misconduct is a form of prohibited harassment, which includes sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.

It is essential that we hold each other accountable for creating a culture where our community members feel comfortable coming forward to report discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct to the Office of Equity, and where we make clear to one another that this behavior is not tolerated.

There are several initiatives launching in this academic year aimed at preventing and responding to discrimination and harassment, including:

  • As of Oct. 1, 2019, all new faculty and staff are required to complete an online training module about all forms of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct. This mandatory training program will roll out to all current faculty and staff in November. While the State of Illinois recently passed a law requiring employers to provide sexual harassment training to employees, Northwestern’s training program will cover all forms of discrimination and harassment — including race and disability discrimination. The online training program provides a baseline level of information, but we encourage you to reach out to Kate Harrington-Rosen in the Office of Equity if you are also interested in hosting an in-person training session within your department or school. The Office of Equity is happy to work with you on individual training requests.
  • On Oct. 15, 2019, the Office of Equity will release the results of Northwestern’s participation in the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct and the AAU aggregate data report. Throughout the academic year, the Office of Equity is holding events to engage with the community and consider the survey results together. Based on this joint review of the survey results and community feedback, in May 2020 the Office of Equity will release a summary of work done together and forthcoming action items.
  • Throughout the academic year, the University will continue its work as one of 28 founding members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. Additional details about these efforts will be announced in the coming weeks.
  • All students will continue to receive annual training on sexual misconduct.
  • The University recently revised its Policy on Sexual Misconduct and Policy on Discrimination and Harassment. Importantly, the format and substance of the Policy on Discrimination and Harassment were revised in order to provide clarity, enhance transparency, and bring the policy more in line with the procedures and resources set forth in the University’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct. Our hope is that this change, along with requiring training on all forms of discrimination and harassment, demonstrates that the University takes all reports seriously and does not prioritize one form of discrimination or harassment over another form. As always, the Office of Equity welcomes your questions and thoughts about these policies.
  • In August, the Office of Equity and AccessibleNU launched a website on digital and physical accessibility. Please review this site and contact the Office of Equity with any accessibility-related questions, or if you are a faculty or staff member in need of an accommodation. Students in need of accommodations should contact AccessibleNU.  

Please take time to review resources available to you on the Office of Equity’s website, or reach out to any staff member in the Office of Equity with questions: They are here to help. We look forward to a year of working together, treating each other with kindness, and listening to and reflecting on the experiences of others in our community.