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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Board of Trustees, Office of Civil Rights & Title IX Compliance share updates at Faculty Senate

Isabel Su/The Daily Northwestern
Emily Babb, associate vice president of civil rights & Title IX compliance, shared updates from the office at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

Board of Trustees Chair Peter Barris presented on a number of unexpected challenges Northwestern has faced over the past year, the University’s upcoming investments and recent changes to the Board at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting. 

The Faculty Senate also heard from Emily Babb, associate vice president for civil rights & Title IX compliance, representatives of the Campus Safety & Wellness Committee, and the Assessment and Accreditation Council.

Attending via Zoom, Barris said NU is at a “significantly consequential point in (our) continual ascension as one of the top universities.”

This ascension is supported by the University’s upcoming investments, including the upcoming redevelopment of Norris University Center’s East Lawn, the new Center for Enlightened Disagreement at the Kellogg School of Management and the rebuilding of Ryan Field, Barris said.

He also spoke about how the University has responded to recent challenges, including the exposure of hazing in the football program and protecting student safety and free expression after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which has led Israel to conduct a continued ground and air offensive in Gaza. 

Since the conflict began, universities across the country have received backlash for their responses to the attack. Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president, resigned under pressure in January, in part due to widespread fury over Harvard’s lack of direct condemnation of Hamas and lack of response to a controversial pro-Palestine statement signed by student groups.

“It reflects well on our University that we have not experienced the level of unrest our fellow universities have experienced,” Barris said. 

One of the goals of the Board’s Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee is to ensure “preparedness and objectivity” in future situations like this, according to Barris.

Barris also appointed an ad-hoc committee on athletics to help the school navigate changes to the overall athletics landscape, such as new NCAA rules on name, image and likeness, potential player compensation and an expansion of the Big Ten Conference.

In the past year, the Board has implemented measures to address some of the concerns raised by faculty at past meetings, including transparency between the Board and faculty and the size of the Board, which currently has over 140 members.

After a program review, the Board focused on streamlining committees to make them more efficient and implemented “extracurricular programming” to ensure trustee engagement with University initiatives. 

McCormick Prof. Luís Amaral said it was “very heartening” to hear these changes to the Board but asked for more transparency about the members of each committee. 

After Barris’ remarks and a short Q&A, Babb shared updates from NU’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance and statistics from the office’s annual report. 

The office now has five full-time investigators on staff, which has allowed them to move away from using external investigators, according to Babb. 

Last year, 589 reports of discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct were filed. However, the filers did not respond for 217 of the reports, and in 106 cases, the filers chose not to move forward.

These numbers are “not outlier to peer institutions,” Babb said. 

There was an increase in discrimination and harassment reports around national origin and religion following the Oct. 7 attack, Babb said, but numbers leveled off later in the year. 

To close out the meeting, Medill Prof. Ceci Rodgers, Faculty Senate representative to the Campus Safety & Wellness Committee, shared some of the safety and security reforms the committee has been working toward, including shifting Community Service Officers out of University Police and into the Environmental Health Department.

The Faculty Senate representative to the University’s Assessment and Accreditation Council, Medill Prof. Jacqueline Babb also announced that NU will be undergoing the Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation process — which takes place every ten years — next April.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will take place at Scott Hall on May 8.

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