Sexual Misconduct Prohibited by Civil Rights Law
Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights' Dear Colleague Letter (April 4, 2011) has clarified that sexual harassment includes sexual misconduct, sexual assault and sexual violence. These are all violations of civil rights laws and constitute discrimination under Title IX for students and employees in educational institutions:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)
Title IX of the Patsy T. Mink Education Opportunity Act of 1972 (Title IX) prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity that receives financial support from the Federal government. In addition to prohibiting discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment, sexual violence, and sexual assault, Title IX also prohibits retaliation against individuals who complain about or participate in an investigation regarding an alleged Title IX violation. Title IX is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Employees are also covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Western and Title IX
In compliance with Title IX, Western does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational programs and activities or in its employment. It is Western’s goal to maintain an environment that is free from all forms of illegal harassment and discrimination, including sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual coercion, rape, bullying, and hazing. Please see Western's policies on Ensuring Equal Opportunity and Prohibiting Discrimination and Retaliation and Preventing and Responding to Sex Discrimination, Including Sexual Misconduct.
Western's Title IX Coordinator
All inquiries concerning the application of policies for the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual violence under Title IX should be referred to Western’s Title IX Coordinators:
Dr. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger
Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity & Employment Diversity
Title IX Coordinator
Equal Opportunity Office
Old Main 345
Voice: (360) 650-3307
Washington Relay: 711
Assistant Director, Equal Opportunity Office
Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Equal Opportunity Office
Old Main 345
Voice: (360) 650-6307
Washington Relay: 711
The Title IX Coordinator provides advice and oversight on policies, preventive educational programs, resources and services required under Title IX, and in addition, oversees all complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, as well as identifies and addresses any patterns or systematic problems that arise during the review of complaints.
Work Group on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response
Shortly after the OCR's 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, an interdepartmental task force was established in order to ensure full implementation of the letter's guidance and coordinate among the many offices and departments that are necessarily part of Western's efforts in preventing and responding to sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence. The task force has since evolved into a work group, with representation from the Equal Opportunity Office, University Police, the Student Health Center, Athletics, Prevention and Wellness Services, Dean of Students Office, Counseling Center, University Residences, and the President's Office. This work group meets regularly throughout the year, with periodic individual meetings with various constituent members as well, to ensure that our efforts are effectively coordinated in dealing with this important issue. Regular network meetings are held each Monday, coordinated by the Student Conduct Office and those meetings involving any aspect of sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence are attended by the University's Title IX Coordinator and/or Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
Counseling & Support Resources
If you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence, we encourage you to see a confidential counselor at Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) to discuss your reporting options in detail, and to have someone there for you while you report. The CASAS help line is (360) 650-3700. We also encourage you to utilize the following support resources that are available to you:
- Consultation and Sexual Assault Support
(CASAS), (360) 650-3700
- Counseling Center, (360) 650-3164
- Student Health Center, (360) 650-3400
- Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services, (360) 715-1563
If you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence, you have resources and reporting options. If an incident occurs to you or you know of an incident, please immediately contact at least one of the following people/offices:
- University Police, (360) 650-3911
- Bellingham Police Department, 911
- Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator: Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, Old Main 345, (360) 650-3307, Sue.Guenter-Schlesinger@wwu.edu
- Dean of Students Office, (360) 650-3706
Discrimination Complaint Investigations
The EO Office investigates all complaints of discrimination, including those covered by Title IX, according to Western's Discrimination Complaint Procedure. Western's Title IX Coordinator also serves as the Vice Provost for the Equal Opportunity Office which provides a safe place for students, faculty members, and employees who desire information about and/or need help with issues involving sexual harassment, sexual assault, or sexual violence as well as with other civil rights protected categories (e.g., race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, veteran status and genetic information). Western is concerned about the safety and well-being of all members of the campus community, and encourages anyone who experiences sexual harassment or violence in connection with all academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs of the school to report their incident, whether those programs take place in a school’s facilities or off campus.
When safety is viewed as a concern, Western will take interim measures to protect the complaining party during the grievance process as necessary, with the complainant's consent, including but not limited to: immediate action to eliminate harassment and the potential for violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects (e.g., arranging for changes in class schedules and/or living arrangements, counseling, modifying class requirements or testing schedules as needed, etc.).
Western’s Discrimination Complaint Procedure provides for prompt and equitable investigation of complaints alleging violations of Title IX. Retaliation against complainants is prohibited by Title IX and will not be tolerated by Western. Western is committed to resolving complaints with a prompt, equitable, adequate, reliable and impartial investigation.
Western is committed to ensuring that all students and employees feel safe and have the opportunity to benefit fully from education programs and activities.
***If you have experienced sexual assault or dating violence, please contact Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) at
Links to Resources from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights:
Additional guidance can be found in an Advisory Statement on Sexual Misconduct that was issued in 2013 by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).