Update from the EOAA Director

EOAA e-News Summer 2012

More from Kim Hewitt, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action

Photo of EOAA Director Kimberly HewittAs you may know, our long time office supervisor, Richard Kronstedt, retired last November.  We miss him dearly, but we're pleased Felecia Franklin has assumed most of his former responsibilities and is supervising a part-time student receptionist along with managing office intake and administrative duties. Felecia represents the very important first stop for staff, faculty and students who are seeking our support relative to discrimination, harassment and nepotism situations, and we are thrilled to have her in this new role!  Additionally, the Office for Equity and Diversity recently revealed its new website in which the units of OED, including EOAA, have a more connected and related presence. Please see diversity.umn.edu/eoaa/ to view our new website and our new vision statement: The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action envisions a University community that is equitable – one that values the diversity of its workforce and student body and is free from discrimination and harassment.


Anne Phibbs, director of education for the Office for Equity and Diversity, has worked tirelessly in the last several months to develop and promote OED’s Equity and Diversity Certificate program. Members of the EOAA office staff have been deeply involved in these efforts and have been featured trainers regularly.  In addition we have developed an additional program of our own to address more broad questions about how our office operates both from the perspective of a complainant and a respondent called, Understanding and Valuing Equity and Diversity: Communications, Interactions, Policies and Procedures. Stay tuned for our fall educational programming calendar so you can sign up for this course or one of our others.


Last February, I presented revised versions of the policies against nepotism and sexual harassment to the Board of Regents that were approved by the Board Committee on Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs and the full Board of Regents on May 10, 2012. The most significant change to the Sexual Harassment policy is the addition of specific language about non-retaliation for reporting incidents of sexual harassment.  The Nepotism policy has also been revised to include language consistent with the administrative policy that nepotism is prohibited in situations where the relationship has an indirect impact on the work or learning environment.  In other words, where there is a personal relationship, but no direct work or educational relationship, but the relationship has a negative effect on the work or learning environment, it may be necessary to develop an agreement or workaround or change the setting in other ways.  Please communicate with the individuals in your units about the revisions to these two important policies.


As you know, a little more than a year ago the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague letter regarding educational institutions and their obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. secs. 1681 et seq.  (Title IX)[1]  As a result of the letter we have taken a closer look at how we interact with the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI) in investigating and reviewing allegations of sexual assault between students.  Additionally, we have seen greater interest in Title IX compliance by federal granting agencies.  Our office is working with three colleges that are being subject to Title IX compliance audits by NASA and the USDA.  I share this information so that you are aware that EOAA can support you if you become audited, and to ask you to remind those in your units that they can report violations of Title IX to our office for investigation and problem-solving. Please see the following link on our website: https://diversity.umn.edu/eoaa/definitiontitleix


Finally, I had the opportunity to attend an Employment Law Continuing Legal Education Program by the National Association for College and University Attorneys (NACUA). During the conference, I attended a presentation by Patti Ohlendorf, Vice President for Legal Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who discussed her experience navigating the University’s affirmative action litigation Fisher v. University of Texas.  As you may know the United States Supreme Court will hear the Fisher case this fall, in which a white student claimed she was unfairly discriminated against because, while 80% of the University’s undergraduate students are admitted based upon their status in the top 10% of their high school class, the remaining students are admitted using the holistic approach previously sanctioned by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger[2], that allows for the consideration of race.  Fisher was not in the top ten percent of her high school class and was denied admission when her application was reviewed for the remaining 20% of the class. Ms. Ohlendorf and others believe that the Supreme Court’s review of this very narrow case is significant and could indicate that the Court will reverse Grutter in its entirety, making it illegal for universities and colleges to consider race as a factor in the admissions process.  In her view, there are no institutions using a “Grutter-like” holistic approach to hiring faculty, but the outcome of the Fisher decision might impact how we approach hiring decisions so it is an important case to monitor for that reason as well.


We look forward to seeing all of the EOAA Liaisons later this year for our annual Fall Liaison Conference.  Please forward your thoughts about topics of interest to Felecia Franklin at frank055@umn.edu.


Kimberly Hewitt

Director, Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action


[1] Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.

[2] 539 U.S. 306 (2003).  In Grutter the Supreme Court held that the University of Michigan’s law schools narrowly tailored use of race to further the compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body was not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.