CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano
CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano

DENVER — With the University of Colorado on the list of 55 schools currently facing federal Title IX investigations, Chancellor Phil DiStefano briefed university leaders Thursday on what the Boulder campus is doing to address sexual assault and harassment.

In front of the Board of Regents at CU-Denver, DiStefano spoke about the Boulder campus's investigative process, prevention and training efforts, and support for victims.

CU's Boulder and Denver campuses were named in May to a list of schools being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for potential Title IX violations.

The federal gender equity law prohibits discrimination on college and university campuses, including sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The education department's investigation began last summer after an undergraduate woman filed a complaint with its civil rights office. She alleged that CU did not do enough to punish the assailant in her sexual assault case.

The federal investigation is ongoing. The university also commissioned a separate, independent review of its Title IX practices last fall, which found the school to be in compliance with federal law.

"Our processes and education and prevention efforts are not set in stone," DiStefano said. "We're looking to improve them on a continual basis."

Based on the recommendation of the independent review, the campus this month hired civil rights lawyer Valerie Simons to be Title IX director in Boulder.

DiStefano said hiring Simons was a major step toward evaluating and improving prevention and education efforts, as well as investigating possible instances of discrimination.

DiStefano said the campus also plans to form a student task force this summer on issues around sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Sue Sharkey, vice-chair of the board and a Republican from Castle Rock, asked representatives from each of CU's campuses how long their discrimination investigation process takes, and urged them to look at ways to shorten that process when possible.

Colorado Springs Republican Kyle Hybl, while applauding the comprehensiveness of Boulder's anti-discrimination programs, called for more education among students about how to access resources such as the Office of Victim Assistance, counseling options and others.

"How do we let the students know that these resources are available?" Hybl said. "If it's at orientation, maybe they're not hearing it when we're telling it to them. Maybe there's alternative ways to do it."

DiStefano agreed, adding that first-year students especially can be reached more easily when they're living in on-campus housing.

"Students aren't going to think about where they can go until something happens," DiStefano said. "They're not going to be listening all the time. We have to look at ways of bringing up the issue to our students, especially in that first year."

Contact Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com ortwitter.com/sarahkuta.