A Message to the CUNY community from Chancellor James B. Milliken

A Message to the CUNY community from Chancellor James B. Milliken

I am sure many of you have read stories in the media recently about universities revising their policies and procedures regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment.   These actions have been a response to changes in federal law and regulations and the increased attention at all levels to the importance of  addressing these issues on college campuses.   In particular, the leadership and involvement of Governor Cuomo has drawn into sharp focus the responsibilities of colleges and universities in New York.   I want to briefly bring you up to date on the steps that The City University of New York has taken.

A CUNY Task Force comprised of representatives of the University’s offices of Student Affairs, Human Resources Management and Legal Affairs has been reviewing and preparing revised policies and procedures addressing sexual assault, sexual harassment and student discipline.  I want to express special thanks to Paulette Dalpes, deputy to the vice chancellor for student affairs; Jennifer Rubain, dean for recruitment and diversity, and Jane Sovern, deputy general counsel, for their continuing leadership and good work. The Task Force engaged outside counsel to provide special expertise and it consulted widely with students, faculty, and administration.  This work has benefited from the collaborative efforts of all involved in the process, and we are deeply grateful for their participation.

Last month, CUNY sent an e-mail communication to the University community seeking comments on both the proposed amendments to student discipline procedures and to the University’s policies on sexual assault and sexual harassment.  We have received many thoughtful comments, and we are currently making revisions to the drafts.  The input from the community has been extensive and valuable.

Last week, the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York publicly announced that it would be considering proposed amendments to the provisions of the bylaws governing student discipline with specific reference to cases involving allegations of sexual assault, stalking and other forms of sexual violence. Those amendments and the proposed changes to the policies on sexual assault and harassment will be brought to the full Board of Trustees for a vote at its next meeting, preceded by a regularly scheduled public hearing.

The proposed policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence covers multiple aspects, including education, training, cooperation with law enforcement and uniform standards and definitions.  It begins with the statement, “Every member of the CUNY community, including students, employees and visitors, deserves the opportunity to live, learn and work free from sexual harassment and sexual violence.”  It defines prohibited conduct, details a streamlined reporting process, clarifies confidentiality and provides a framework for investigation, among other provisions.

The proposed student discipline policy would govern all alleged infractions. It is designed to be sensitive to student accusers while safeguarding the rights of the accused, and would give complainants the right to fully participate in hearings, including presenting their side of the story through testimony, witnesses, cross-examination, legal representation and having the right to appeal.

I am pleased that we will be presenting a new policy to the Board of Trustees at its next meeting. I appreciate the good work of so many in the CUNY community in this process.


James B. Milliken