As faculty, staff and students at Utah State University prepare for fall semester, the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Office prepares with a name change.
As of Aug. 1, the AAEO Office has updated its name to the Office of Equity to not only reflect the growth and areas of the office oversees but also better reflect the services the office provides.
“We wanted a name that would really reflect all of the work that we do,” Office of Equity Executive Director Alison Adams-Perlace said. “We work with students and faculty and staff in addition to investigating reports of discrimination and sexual misconduct.”
The office enforces Title IX, which helps regulate gender discrimination and sexual misconduct. According to the Office of Equity website, sexual misconduct includes relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The office also enforces USU’s non-discrimination policies, which prohibit unfair treatment based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability or status as a protected veteran.
The Office of Equity has been in the news most recently for its involvement in a lawsuit alleging the university didn't do enough to help Jerusha Sanjeevi, a psychology Ph.D. student who died by suicide in 2017. The office was also mentioned frequently in stories about sexual violence and other misconduct at the university coinciding with the #MeToo movement, most notably including the cases of Torrey Green and Jason Relopez, as well as the investigation into allegations of harassment, favoritism and sexual assault in the piano department.
In addition to enforcing USU policies, the office is tasked with providing prevention education, supportive measures and other resources to assist the USU community.
“We felt that our other name didn’t really reflect that,” Adams-Perlac said. “It was often reduced to an acronym which essentially had no meaning at all.”
Before she was named the Office of Equity executive director in January 2019, Adams-Perlac had worked as an attorney for over 10 years and worked extensively on projects addressing the impacts on minorities and underrepresented groups in Utah.
Adams-Perlac said the office strives to investigate each report promptly, fairly and impartially.
“Equity means fair and impartial,” Adams-Perlac said. “That is another idea that we wanted to put forth with our name: that whoever is involved in our process, whether it’s a complainant or respondent or someone who’s seen what happened and (is) reporting it to us that they can come to us and share information with us and that they will get a fair and impartial experience with us.”
Students, faculty and staff can file a report of suspected discrimination or sexual misconduct to the Office of Equity whether they were affected or witnessed the situation by visiting the Office of Equity website at equity.usu.edu.