Title IX Update

From: Antonio Farias
Sent: Thursday, February 1, 2018 8:52 AM
Subject: Title IX Update

Dear campus community,

As the spring semester begins, I’m writing to update you on our ongoing work in the area of Title IX, the law governing sex discrimination in higher education.

In early 2017, we invited the Victim Rights Law Center to campus to review our Title IX policies, practices, and structure. The resulting report contained many helpful recommendations—several of which we implemented immediately. We’ve continued to make progress in other areas during this academic year. A comprehensive list of tasks completed can be found here.

While Wesleyan already conducts training for all faculty and staff on sexual harassment and discrimination, the Office for Equity & Inclusion, Human Resources, Academic Affairs, and Graduate Student Services are partnering to expand our training opportunities. Additional training and education will be offered in an ongoing way, shepherded by the Title IX Education Committee.

As part of the VRLC recommendations and in consultation with students, we’ve also made a change to the investigation and adjudication process for student cases of sexual misconduct. The in-person hearing panel has been replaced by a deliberation  panel. The complete process is found in the student handbook.

This semester, we hired Johanna DeBari as director of the new Office of Survivor Advocacy and Community Education, which has been created within Health Services. She will develop programming around issues of sexual and gender-based misconduct, and will provide direct support to students who are impacted.

Finally, we have taken steps to clarify some of our policies and procedures, and have implemented a Relationship Policy, which provides clear guidance for all members of the university community on what types of relationships are prohibited due to inherently problematic power differentials.

I want to thank all those who are working hard to make gender equity and the eradication of sexual harassment and violence a priority. This work is ongoing, and our policies and processes will continue to improve with input. I invite anyone wishing to learn more about support and resources available for survivors of sexual misconduct to visit our website.

Antonio Farias

Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX & Sec 504 Officer

Equity and Inclusion Plans for Coming Year

From: Antonio Farias
Date: Monday, September 4, 2017 at 4:25 PM
Subject: Equity and Inclusion Plans for Coming Year

Dear Wesleyan Community,

After four years at Wesleyan as the Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX & Sec.504 Officer, I continue to be encouraged by the desire of our living-learning community to expect an educational environment that values and respects everyone and is attentive to those most at risk by the rise in bigotry. I am equally encouraged by the willingness of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to be active partners in the change-making process. Over the years, I’ve gained an increased understanding of the complexity of the Wesleyan community’s needs and aspirations to move the equity, inclusion, and social justice agenda forward in practical, meaningful ways.

Here I offer a brief sketch of what the Office for Equity & Inclusion (OEI) is planning in the coming year. Our goal is to strengthen student support, to establish a clear direction for progress, and to create space for continuous, actionable feedback on how we are doing. We aim to be a more equitable and inclusive living-learning-working community that fully embraces “independence of mind and generosity of spirit,” without forgetting historic and persistent inequality.

What follows is a brief summary of changes that seek to enhance OEI’s ability to serve the campus.

  1. The current criminalization of undocumented students in our country leaves me speechless, but not without hope. Although the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program’s nearly 800,000 beneficiaries is uncertain, our policies and practices are in place to support students, regardless of citizenship status. We have made legal consultations available to students directly impacted by immigration policy changes and we will continue to do so. Please review President Roth’s recent reaffirmation of our continued support of undocumented students here.You can find updated resources here. In addition to chairing the Undocumented Student Support Committee, I will be hosting a Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) UndocuAlly training for staff and faculty on September 29 in order to continue to infuse practical competencies in the educational workforce that serves our undocumented students. I am also in the planning stage of bringing back the C4D Educator’s Conference in early December, so stay tuned for more information on how you can attend and participate. Staff and faculty are encouraged to sign up by clicking here. I encourage all who wish to demonstrate their support for those who continue to be marginalized because of citizenship status to continue to make your voices heard. Let’s create a united front with university efforts to create a more equitable environment at Wesleyan and beyond our campus.
  2. In collaboration with and building on the Student Affairs #NotAtOurWes campaign, a team from the Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute Rwill facilitate a student-focused peer advocacy training titled #HowNotAtOurWes during the last week in September. The purpose of this skill-building workshop is to equip students and staff to facilitate dialogue using action-oriented strategies based on the bystander intervention model. Sign-up information will be forthcoming. As a reminder, I previously posted available resources (and welcome your additions) to combat discrimination and bigotry here.
  3. This year, in collaboration with Human Resources, we will run three 2-day Crucial Conversations workshops designed specifically for faculty and staff to learn practical techniques that allow us to have productive, outcomes-based discussions, when emotions are high, views are opposing, and the stakes are high. Those dates are set for October 23/24, January 8/9, and March 19/20. Staff and faculty can click hereto sign-up for a session.
  4. Tailored climate and culture surveys will be sent out to students, faculty, and staff this fall as the initial step in assessing a baseline of where we find ourselves. This data will then be augmented through focus groups, and finally, under the auspices of the Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee (EISC), as well as following the bold pathway set forth by the Equity Task Force Report, will be the basis for developing a comprehensive and timely equity and inclusion campus strategy.
  5. The Annual Report on Sexual Violencewas released early this year, and includes links to a new website as well as information about changes in investigation and adjudication of student cases.  In keeping with past practice, we will be hosting briefing sessions dedicated to explaining the significant changes in policy, new initiatives, as well as what the data is telling us. The dates and locations are:
  1. Tuesday, September 12 (11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.), Judd 116
  2. Wednesday, September 13 (12:15 – 1:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  3. Thursday, September 14 (6:00 – 7:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  4. Tuesday, September 19 (6:00 – 7:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  1. Sixteen months ago, I created a campus-wide accessibility committee dedicated to scanning the campus for continued accessibility barriers in the digital, physical, and educational domains. This committee has representation from staff, faculty, and students, who will, come the fall, be working on creating a comprehensive accessibility strategic plan and accompanying policy changes designed to move us increasingly closer to the principles of Universal Design.

Ultimately, the work of making Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive community rests on our shared values and willingness to work toward common goals. However imperfect the outcomes may be, what matters is our commitment to continuous improvement, seeking what will work best for us on this unique campus. I very much look forward to continuing to work with you. Even in these troubled times, I’m excited about what is possible at Wesleyan.


With gratitude,

Antonio Farias

Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX & Sec. 504 Officer


Title IX Campus Update

From: Michael S. Roth
Date: Friday, August 25, 2017 at 11:53 AM
Subject: Campus Update

Dear friends,

As the new academic year gets underway, I am writing with several important updates in regard to Title IX, the law governing sex discrimination in higher education.

Although I regret having to return to this issue, I begin with the university’s investigation of former Associate Dean Scott Backer’s work at Wesleyan. As many of you are aware, we terminated Mr. Backer after learning that he had concealed his inappropriate sexual conduct at his previous employer. I want to say again that I am pained that Mr. Backer ever worked here at all, and that I am very sorry that his presence on campus and subsequent revelations about him have caused anguish to many members of our community. After Mr. Backer’s arrest in the spring, we engaged an outside firm to extend an earlier audit of his work at the university. That independent review has just been completed. The audit did find some inappropriate (and anonymous) photographs in his backup files, and we turned those over to the proper authorities. They found that the images warranted no further action. In regard to student disciplinary cases in which Mr. Backer was involved, the review found his work in keeping with the university’s policies and procedures.

Second, I’m pleased to announce that in response to feedback from faculty and staff, we have hired an ombudsperson—an informal, independent and confidential resource for employees dealing with Title IX and other workplace conflicts. You can read more about Israela Adah Brill-Cass and the services she provides on her website, and can contact her at iabrillcass@gmail.com or 508-889-2675. She will be on campus one day a week beginning in mid-September, and will work out of Russell House.

We have also implemented several important changes to our Title IX policies, practices, and structure as a result of the year-long work of the Title IX committees in conjunction with the recommendations of the Victim Rights Law Center’s review last year. You can read about these improvements and updates, which fall into the categories of reorganization, training, and communication, in the full VRLC report.

The full Clery report on campus crime statistics will be available on the Public Safety website by mid-September. In advance of that, you can find the 2017 Annual Report on Wesleyan’s Response to Sexual Violence, which reports sexual misconduct as well as the outcomes of cases from 2009–2016.

Finally, I invite you to visit this new website, which provides resources and support for survivors of sexual misconduct. It provides a definition of sexual violence and advice for what to do in the immediate aftermath, outlines reporting and non-reporting options, and lists a variety of support services and resources, including CAPS, the campus SART intern, chaplains, and others.

I want to thank everyone for the suggestions, expressions of concern and hard work in helping us make progress in this challenging and crucial area. When we listen to one another, take care of one another, we build a more inclusive and equitable community.

Yours truly,

Michael S. Roth



UPDATE: Title IX external review firm identified and anonymous external reporting link is live

Cozen O’Connor is the external firm conducting the expanded review. They’ve set-up a webpage where anyone wishing to report inappropriate interactions anonymously may do so by clicking here.


From: Michael S. Roth
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 5:35 PM
Subject: Campus Update

Dear friends,

Since the news last week that former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer had been arrested, we’ve sought and received feedback to guide our next steps. Though the alleged incident leading to this arrest occurred some time after Mr. Backer had been terminated from Wesleyan, it has nevertheless created anguish among survivors and prompted renewed scrutiny of his conduct here. As I’ve said before, I am sorry that Wesleyan ever hired this man, and that had he not lied about his previous conduct, the university never would have done so. I deeply regret the pain that this has caused many members of our community.

Last year when we became aware of Mr. Backer’s history and promptly fired him, we brought in a leading national outside firm to audit the Title IX cases with which he had been involved. The auditors found that he had followed the university’s policies and procedures in his handling of thesecases. Given recent developments, we’ve decided to extend the independent review by professionals in the field.

Again, we also want to hear from any member of the Wesleyan community who wishes to report inappropriate interactions with Mr. Backer. Wesleyan community members will have the option of reporting to the firm, either anonymously or not, or to Debbie Colucci in the Office for Equity & Inclusion. Contact information and updates will be posted on the Equity@Wesleyan website. Information gathered from these interviews, in addition to the recommendations from the Victim Rights Law Center, will help us to improve our policies and procedures going forward. We will also share information with law enforcement as appropriate. The resulting report will be made public, while protecting individual confidentiality, in the fall semester.

I take our responsibility to protect our students and employees extremely seriously, and I am fully committed to promoting a campus free from sexual assault and harassment. You may direct any questions about the review to me or to Debbie Colucci at dcolucci@wesleyan.edu.

Yours truly,
Michael S. Roth

Next Steps: Title IX

Dear campus community,

The Title IX assessment previously posted on the Equity & Inclusion website has been converted into a working flow chart that parses out each individual recommendation or area of concern and assigns responsibility and timelines.  Please note, this is a working document subject to changes in priorities as the various campus offices and Title IX committees continue to work on the recommendations. Faculty, staff, and students continue to be part of this thoughtful and deliberative process, as they have from the beginning.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly.

Antonio Farias
VP for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX and Sec 504 Officer

Title IX External Assessment

Dear campus community,

Please follow this link to access the full report from the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC).  The report was generated with the robust participation of faculty, staff, and students who took part in the two-day onsite visit by VRLC February 8-9, 2017. A strategy for engaging with the recommendations is currently being developed, one that continues to include, as well as increase representation from across the campus and local community. If you have immediate questions, please don’t hesitate to call or stop by.

With gratitude,
Antonio Farias
VP for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX and Sec. 504 Officer

EISC submits Center proposal to President Roth

Dear Wesleyan Community,

Thank you all for your engagement, energy, and thoughtful input as we built on the work of the Equity Task Force and crafted a proposal for The Center!  Continuing in the spirit of transparency the Equity Task Force established, the link below provides you with a copy of the proposal, delivered to President Roth this morning.  The work and the path toward greater inclusion in a manner that is equitable and lives up to the spirit of Wesleyan continues, so stay engaged and connected!

With gratitude,

The Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee

E&I Resource Center Proposal

Updated DACA & Immigration Resources

Dear Wesleyan Community,

For those unable to attend the February 17th Know Your Rights session, individual legal consolation session, and the CT Students for a Dream Activist Workshop, please avail yourselves of the posted resources linked below.  The DACA/Immigration Committee will continue to meet, plan, and communicate relevant and pragmatic information designed to support impacted campus community members as well as those that are interested in championing fundamental human rights and dignity.

With gratitude, and on behalf of the entire committee,

Antonio Farias

Presentation PowerPoint: Know Your Rights Wesleyan

PDF Handout: Rights of Immigrants – 2017-V5


Resource Center Update

Dear Wesleyan Community, 

We’re excited to update you all on the progress that the Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee has made with respect to the forthcoming resource center. Since our last update we have: 

-Completed outlines day-by-day for each affinity group the center will support

-Established job descriptions for three different staff positions

-Created plans for the future of the resource center

We hope to finish the proposal by the end of February, in time for the Board of Trustees meeting the first weekend of March. We look forward to continued conversation with the campus community about the resource center’s direction.




Title IX External Assessment Team Site Visit Feb 8-9, 2017

Dear Wesleyan Community,

As noted in the all-campus email you received, an external Title IX assessment team from the Victim’s Rights Law Center (VRLC) will be on campus February 8-9.  The comprehensive schedule is listed below. We have consulted with and listened carefully to the various campus community members and so the external assessment team has the expertise to work with faculty, staff, students – especially those from marginalized communities. Bios of the three-person team are forthcoming.  If you have questions about the site visit, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

With gratitude,

Antonio Farias
V.P. for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX and Sec. 504 Officer
Wesleyan University


VRLC Visit Team

Lindy Aldrich, Esq.

Deputy Director, Victim Rights Law Center

Lindy Aldrich has been with the VRLC since 2007, beginning as a staff attorney and becoming Deputy Director in 2010. Given that almost 50% of the VRLC’s clients are under the age of 24, Lindy and other VRLC staff attorneys work to ensure that sexual assault victims stay their educational course, including helping to curtail and ameliorate the often devastating impact of the assault on the victim’s safety, housing (dormitory or off-campus housing), employment (after school, on or off campus job), scholarship and extracurricular activities.

As a trainer on the VRLC’s national Technical Assistance grant, Lindy trains around the country on a number of topics including Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault Policies and Response. Lindy and other VRLC trainers remain at the forefront of this national discussion through consultations and trainings with state and national agencies, universities, and other legal service providers. She has been a Resource Team member and trainer for the OVW Campus Program Training and Technical Assistance Institute since 2010 and a recent presenter for the Project STOP NOW! conference for campus administrators from historically black colleges and universities. Lindy collaborates with the Clery Center for Security on Campus on webinars and conferences as a Title IX expert. In February 2014, Lindy was invited, by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, to lend her expertise on Title IX and victim confidentiality.  She is also an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Training and Technical Assistance Center trainer and, in partnership with OVC, has delivered webinars and live chats on sexual violence and education. Lindy is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School.


Amanda Walsh, Esq.

Education Program Senior Attorney, Victim Rights Law Center

Amanda Walsh, Esq. returned to the VRLC in January 2017 as an Education Program Senior Attorney.  In this role, Amanda provides training and technical assistance to Office on Violence Against Women campus grantees.  From 2011-2015, Amanda was a VRLC staff attorney, focusing primarily on the representation of high school and college students who have been victims of sexual assault.  In addition to Title IX, Amanda represented clients seeking disability accommodations within the education setting and special education benefits under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  She also trained colleges and universities nationally on Title IX and campus sexual assault response.  Before returning to the VRLC, Amanda was the inaugural Title IX Program Officer at Brown University.  She was responsible for implementing Brown’s sexual and gender-based harassment and violence policy and complaint procedures, building Brown’s flagship Title IX Office, and overseeing all related complaint investigations.  In August 2014, Amanda was invited by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to lend her expertise on the unique issues facing K-12 sexual assault victims and their remedies under Title IX and IDEA.  In 2012, Amanda was recognized for her work in public interest and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award – Gold Level for her sustained commitment.  Amanda is a graduate of Northeastern University and Roger Williams University School of Law.


Candi N. Smiley, Esq.

Title IX Coordinator, Howard University

Candi N. Smiley, Esq. currently serves as the Title IX Coordinator for Howard University. Ms. Smiley coordinates the University’s response, prevention and education initiatives pursuant to Title IX and related statues and regulation. She also conducts and oversees investigations for complaints alleging sexual assault, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination.  Ms. Smiley previously served as a corporate attorney working on various matters involving federal agencies, private corporations and non-profit organizations. She has been a dedicated volunteer with organizations committed to assisting individuals suffering with drug addiction, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.   Ms. Smiley received her Juris Doctor degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.


Wednesday, February 8
Time Location Group
8:00 – 9:00am Usdan 136 Debbie Colucci, Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Antonio Farias, Title IX Officer
9:00 – 10:00am Usdan 136 Debbie Colucci, Investigator
Paul Verrillo, Investigator
Rick Culliton, Dean of Students
Kevin Butler, Assistant Dean of Students
10:00 – 11:00am Usdan 136 Administrative Hearing Panel members
11:00 – noon Usdan 136 Lunch with the Deans
Louise Brown, Class of ’17
Renee Johnson-Thornton, Class of ’18
Jennifer Wood, Class of ’19
David Phillips, Class of ’20
Laura Patey, Student Academic Resources
12:15 – 1:45pm Shanklin 107 All Campus Open Forum – Faculty, Staff, Student
2:00 – 3:00pm Usdan 136 CT Alliance / Women & Family Services Staff
3:00 – 4:30pm Usdan 136 TIX Core Committee*
4:30 – 5:00pm Usdan 136 TIX Student Advisory Committee*
Thursday, February 9
Time Location Group
8:00 – 9:00am Woodhead Lounge TIX Policy & Education Committees*
9:00 – 10:00am Woodhead Lounge TIX Athletic Committee* and coaches
10:15 – 10:45am Woodhead Lounge Angel Riddle, student Title IX web site
Rebecca Hutmann, WSA President
additional WSA students
10:45 – 11:45am Woodhead Lounge Women’s Faculty Caucus
11:45am – 12:45pm Woodhead Lounge Lunch with Residence Life Student Staff
1:00 – 2:00pm Woodhead Lounge Faculty Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (FCRR)
2:00 – 3:00pm Woodhead Lounge Academic Affairs
Joyce Jacobsen, Provost / VP Academic Affairs
Mark Hovey, Associate Provost
Sheryl Culotta, Associate Provost
Marc Eisner, Dean of  Social Sciences
Ellen Nerenberg, Dean of Arts & Humanities
Joe Knee, Dean of Natural Sciences & Math
3:15 – 4:15pm Woodhead Lounge Sexual Violence Resources
Alysha Warren, Therapist and SART Coord.
Lex Spirtes, SART Intern
Invited student survivors
4:15 – 5:15pm Woodhead Lounge Middletown Police: Captain Gary Wallace