The Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) Liaison Program is designed to build a consistent institutional infrastructure for supporting members of the Duke community and responding to concerns of discrimination, harassment and/or related misconduct at Duke. Since the President’s directive in June for schools and departments to implement Anti-Racism plans aligned with the Strategic Plan Toward Our Second Century, an increased interest emerged in creating internal reporting systems to address microaggressions and other misconduct that could relate to discrimination and harassment.

This program will fulfill the desire for local reporting and problem solving, but offer the following advantages:

  • Consistent identification of complaints that should be elevated to OIE and/or elsewhere for an appropriate response.
  • Greater neutrality and distance from those who are potentially responsible for the harm.
  • Even application of consequences for similar behavior.
  • Reinforcement of who is required to report discrimination and harassment as stated in existing policies.
  • Local access to someone who understands applicable standards and OIE’s process.

The Program is not intended to change existing practices for how OIE responds to individual complaints, such as our close work with Human Resources leaders and chairs, but will hopefully create additional capacity within schools, departments and administrative units to facilitate recommendations that arise from OIE processes, including where OIE has determined that problematic behavior or climate issues exist, but the issues fall outside of OIE jurisdiction or where an investigation is not the recommended path forward. The OIE Liaison can also be a key partner to assist in navigating communication with involved parties during or after an OIE investigation or other intervention, where our process has resulted in unintended impacts on the environment that could be ameliorated with more communication afterwards.

What is an OIE Liaison?

Karis Boyd-Sinkler from Pratt DEIC presenting at 2022 OIE Liaisons Conference
Karis Boyd-Sinkler, director of diversity, equity and inclusion & community of the Pratt School of Engineering presenting at the 2022 OIE Liaisons Conference. Photo courtesy of Maria Moreno.

An OIE Liaison is an appointed member of a Duke unit or department who has a baseline understanding of operational or human resources policies. The designated Liaison should also be situated high enough in the organization to have sufficient audience with the leadership if problems that could be related to harassment and discrimination arise. The OIE Liaison should have excellent judgment and the ability to keep information in the highest confidence. It would be preferable to designate someone who has had interactions with OIE in the past and already understands the process, such as a Human Resources representative, Chief of Staff or a former Department Chair. In the nine Schools, OIE recommends two Liaisons, one faculty member and one staff person.

What is the Commitment of an OIE Liaison?

Kim Hewitt welcoming the OIE Liaisons to the 2022 conference
Kim Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity, welcoming audience to the 2022 OIE Liaison Conference. Photo courtesy of Megan Peterson.

OIE will host an annual OIE Liaison Conference in the fall for education, support and networking. Depending on upcoming legal or compliance-related changes or updates, OIE will use the Conference to provide deeper learning and understanding for the OIE Liaison group so that they can provide expertise on the OIE process and inform their departments and units of any changes. In Fall 2021, the three-hour Conference will focus on the recent changes to the policies, including the implications of the new federal Title IX regulations, how to ensure Anti-Racism programming is consistent with legal boundaries, and what to expect with a new Department of Education leadership. In addition to the conference, OIE Liaisons will be invited to a 90-minute meeting each spring. In advance of each meeting, OIE will request programming feedback from the OIE Liaisons about topics of interest or concern, and OIE will disseminate relevant pre-reading to the group. Finally, OIE will maintain a listserv to facilitate networking and communication among the Liaisons for OIE to more effectively and consistently share information with the group.