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USF uses committee, coordinators to enforce Title IX laws

Published Apr. 5, 2014

TAMPA — To tackle Title IX's wide-reaching duties, USF coordinator Jose E. Hernandez uses an advisory committee and deputy coordinators.

The committee — made up of faculty, student and administrators — handles the federal law's broad goal of evaluating the school's culture. It looks at what discrimination problems loom largest and possible proactive approaches such as bringing in guest speakers. It also gauges how comfortable women are to report incidents and if they can do so easily.

The eight coordinators are scattered about USF's campuses. They handle the law's other part by investigating claims.

A formal report of sexual violence triggers two separate chains of events. USF begins an investigation independent from police. That's often done by the school's office of student rights and responsibilities.

As the school investigates, it also offers the accuser counseling and other help. If the complainant and suspect live on the same floor or take the same class, the school will move one of them.

"My main goal is to know that the reporting has taken place, that services are provided, reme­dies are provided," said Hernandez, USF's chief diversity officer.

USF interviews witnesses and collects evidence. Hernandez said some women become hesitant to pursue the case but none have recanted.

"We still have the responsibility to look at the alleged perpetrator and hold that person accountable," he said.

USF often ends its investigation with a conduct hearing before a group of students and faculty. Hernandez said both parties present evidence and give their account of events.

"We also try to be fair with the offender," he said. "It's all an allegation."

If it's determined a violation occurred, the offender could be put on probation, suspended or expelled.

As Hernandez deals with cases, he said he also monitors federal investigations and lawsuits to make sure USF complies with the law and see if there are ideas he should implement. A federal inquiry at the University of Montana mentioned surveys that could check a campus' climate. Hernandez is considering that for USF.

"If we could have been successful (in stopping sex crimes), we would have already done it," Hernandez said. "But we can do no less than do our best to try."