Changes are coming to the way discrimination investigations are handled at Binghamton University.
Due to a lack of resources and revised state union contracts, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) will no longer directly investigate discrimination claims.
Instead, the office will focus on events that promote inclusion on campus, and BU’s Human Resources (HR) and Risk Management and Administrative Compliance offices will take over as the primary investigators in discrimination cases.
The HR office is responsible for evaluating University employees’ conduct and controls hirings and dismissals. It will assist the Risk Management and Administrative Compliance Office, which is tasked with ensuring BU follows Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in cases regarding faculty and other employees. Title IX and Title VI are federal laws that apply to all institutions receiving federal funds and state that institutions may not discriminate on the basis of sex and race, respectively. Both laws also protect students from retaliation.
Since the change is a matter of centralizing the investigating office, DEI will still process claims of discrimination, hate or bias, but the cases will ultimately be forwarded to Andrew Baker, interim affirmative action officer and Title IX coordinator at BU.
Nicole Sirju-Johnson, the interim chief diversity officer and director of the Multicultural Resource Center at Binghamton University, wrote in an email that the DEI does not have enough staff to thoroughly investigate discrimination claims. According to Johnson, handling investigations through the HR and Title IX offices will facilitate a more effective process.
“Investigations, to be done well, take a great deal of time and should not be done in isolation,” Sirju-Johnson said. “Given our staff size, moving investigations out of DEI allows us to focus on implementing diversity initiatives and education for the campus.”
According to a coordinated statement between the DEI, Title IX and the HR offices, the policy change is also driven by alterations to state union contracts, which are negotiated by union representatives and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. According to a new contract, specific HR procedures, including legal representation for employees throughout a case, are now required during discrimination investigations.
“Recent changes in one of the union contracts now require a certain Human Resources procedure be followed for equal employment of Title IX investigations,” the statement read. “Therefore, the affirmative action and Title IX functions were administratively combined and affirmative action now falls under the Human Resources umbrella.”
Because of the changes, the DEI will be free to focus on campus events and education aimed at creating an inclusive environment at the University. According to Sirju-Johnson, several events this semester will discuss inclusive recruitment of faculty and students, unconscious biases, cultural competency and building bridges across cultures.
Leora Schwadron contributed reporting to this article.