Office offers students a safe place to report abuse

Hannah Shillo , Staff Reporter

Editor’s Note: This story is the start of a series of stories that will highlight different offices, services, centers or places on and off campus that are intended to help students. 

The Office of Civil Rights and Diversity is where students and staff can go if they feel they have been discriminated against while on campus at Eastern.

Shawn Peoples is the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity as well as a Title IX coordinator.

“I am new to the position,” she said. “But the office has been here for quite some time.”

She said anyone at the university who believes they have been discriminated against can report it through the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity, but they can also report an incident elsewhere.

“This is one of the offices (students) can come to,” she said. “They can also go to the Office of Student Standards, which enforces our student code of conduct.”

Peoples said when a report is made, the office investigates to determine if there has been a violation of university policy.

“The office does the investigation part of it,” she said. “Once the investigation is concluded, it goes to the appropriate vice president here at the university, who then would review the information, make a decision and get back to this office.”

The department not only deals with complaints and reports about discrimination, but also complaints that fall under sexual harassment, according to Peoples.

“As a Title IX coordinator, any situation (involving) sexual assault, relationship violence, domestic violence or stalking can be reported here,” she said. “This is one of three places where someone could report (an incident).”

She said reports could also be made at the Office of Student Standards or the University Police Department.

“If there are any complaints that are brought forward,” she said, “we do address those complaints.”

General Counsel Laura McLaughlin said Peoples is well-trained and can handle anything within her department.

“It’s a good comfort level,” she said of having Peoples in charge of the office. “Students and employees talk to her, too. You don’t have to be a student to talk to her, you can be an employee.”

McLaughlin also said a complaint can be made even if it does not involve a student at Eastern.

“Maybe while they were here on our property, a visitor might have done something inappropriate,” she said. “So (Peoples) would be the one that you could go (to talk about the issue) and feel comfortable going to.”

In addition to giving students and faculty a resource for reporting incidents regarding discrimination and harassment, the office is also part of the affirmative action outreach program at Eastern.

“We are trying to enhance our diversity on campus as far as hiring goes,” Peoples said. “(This office) is also involved in the hiring process for faculty and staff.”

Peoples also said she makes sure students are aware of her resources by hosting a series of events, which she started last year, where she can help strike up a conversation about diversity.

“Our first one was on minority students on predominantly white campuses,” she said. “We had a presenter for that, and then the next one focused on our gender and identity, and we had a presenter for that as well.”

As for the events this year, Peoples said the planning is still in the works as she said she wants to let everyone get settled in for the school year first.

According to Peoples, there are, on average, three or four complaints of discrimination in a given school year.

“The good thing is that we do not have a lot of issues and reports,” she said. “I would hope that’s because we don’t have the issues, and not just that someone is not reporting their issue.”

She then said the office is there as a resource, so individuals who have questions or are not sure if they are being discriminated against are encouraged to stop by her office in Old Main Room 1011 to talk or have questions answered.

“If anyone does have questions about that process or policy, we’ll be glad to answer any questions,” she said. “Overall, everyone at the institution can benefit from this office because of our role here and what we do.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].