ASG hears presentation on updated Office of Equity activity and policies


Senior Associate Vice President for Equity TiShaunda McPherson addresses the ASG Senate. McPherson expanded on a number of policy adjustments and new programs within the Office of Equity.

Joshua Perry, Assistant Campus Editor

An Office of Equity representative presented harassment policy updates and previewed a new restorative practice program and digital antiracism training at Associated Student Government’s second meeting of the quarter.

The University announced it would change harassment and discrimination policies by Sept. 3 after releasing the results of an independent investigation into reports of sexual harassment and racism raised by the cheer team. In a February Daily investigation, cheerleaders said NU’s Office of Equity did not appropriately respond to allegations of racism. The University filed a motion in May to dismiss sexual harassment allegations leveled by former cheerleader Hayden Richardson in a January federal lawsuit. 

TiShaunda McPherson, senior associate vice president for equity, addressed the changes. A new reporting mandate requires all NU employees, including student employees and graduate students with supervisory authority, to report incidents of sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination. If employees or students fail to report an incident, they will face repercussions, McPherson said.

The office has also broadened its policy on matters of harassment, McPherson said. Now, offensive language or conduct does not have to be targeted toward a specific person to be a violation.

“Even if someone uses a racial slur, but they don’t direct it at a specific person, that still may create a hostile environment,” McPherson said. “We don’t want that type of behavior in our campus community.”

In accordance with social justice commitments made by administrators last year, the Office of Equity requires senior officials, including University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Kathleen Hagerty, to complete mandatory foundational anti-racism training, according to McPherson.

The Office of Equity will roll out similar, customized digital anti-racism training that the University will develop with the help of NU scholars and diversity leaders, McPherson said. She told ASG that involving the campus community in the process is a top priority.

“We want to engage you to make sure that whatever we build out is unique to Northwestern and specific to the student experience, so that we don’t miss something,” she said. “Even though we think we know, we don’t know everything.”

McPherson also introduced a new restorative practices program launching this month. The program intends to help remedy harm inflicted on victims of harassment and foster productive dialogues between parties involved in Office of Equity cases, McPherson said. Over the course of the summer, the University trained 40 restorative practice facilitators across campus, and the program is now underway, she said.

Students, especially those working with ASG, should make use of these new tools and policy updates, McPherson said.

McPherson also discussed the office’s responsibilities, which include social justice pursuits and responding to reports of harassment, sexual misconduct and discrimination, she said.

Instances of reported harassment do not necessarily result in full investigations, McPherson clarified. She said the office focuses on the needs of those affected by harassment. If the individual who makes a report doesn’t want an investigation, it won’t happen, she said.

“We may follow up with the person one more time just to let them know that they’re supported and that we’re a resource, but 99% of the time, that would be where it ends,” McPherson said. “We want to make sure that those who have been impacted by any type of misconduct maintain their agency and decision-making for what’s best for them.”

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Twitter: @joshdperry

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