This Is Auburn Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy
Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy

Our Mission

The mission of the Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy is to assist Auburn University, Auburn University at Montgomery, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (the "University") in fulfilling its vision of being a preeminent comprehensive land-grant university. Our office provides services in three distinct yet related disciplines - audit, compliance, and privacy - in support of Auburn University's three-pronged mission of teaching, research, and service.

The Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy functions in partnership with University leadership to:

  • improve the internal control system and culture;
  • improve and enhance the management of operational, financial, compliance, strategic and reputational risks;
  • enhance governance processes;
  • ensure strong stewardship and management accountability at all levels of the University.

Case In Point: Lessons for the proactive manager

June 23, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX which states, ''No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'' (Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq. (2018)) I doubt anyone in 1972 realized the compliance journey that this legislation would launch over the next 50 years in higher education. The law was originally enacted to fill the gap in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex as a protected class category. Initially, the law was most frequently applied to sports program equity for many years impacting high school and collegiate athletics. However, court rulings in the 1980's and 90's made it clear that Title IX applied to sexual harrassment and assault as forms of sex discrimination. This greatly expanded what the law meant from how it was originally viewed.

In 2011, the often cited ''Dear Colleague'' letter issued by the Obama administration even further expanded universities' responsibilities to respond to reports of sexual harassment. Since that time Universities have found themselves in a precarious position as the sub-regulatory guidance has changed with various administrations.

As we know, the Trump administration in 2020 took regulatory action, notably adding protections for accused students. Now the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction reinstating many of the previous regulations.

On Title IX's 50th anniversary the Biden administration proposed new sub-regulatory guidance which will now be out for comment over the next few months. Following the period for comments and subsequent evaluation and changes, the final guidance will be issued. The proposed guidance will likely make a challenging area even more challenging for colleges and universities. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 23, 2022, the rule would:

  • Enshrine protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as ''sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, [and] pregnancy or related conditions.''
  • Permit, but no longer require, live hearings and cross examination in Title IX investigations.
  • Expand the definition of sexual harassment.
  • Clarify the protections students, faculty, and staff have from retaliation by their institution.
  • Require colleges to confront off-campus conduct that ''creates or contributes to a hostile environment.''
  • Require certain campus employees to notify the Title IX office of possible sex discrimination, a return to broader mandatory-reporting requirements. If an incident involves students, anyone with ''teaching'' or ''advising'' responsibilities — in other words, most faculty members — must report it. Some professors have criticized mandatory reporting, saying it harms the trust they've built with their students.
  • Require all other faculty and staff members to provide students with the contact information of the campus Title IX coordinator, unless they're designated as confidential resources.
(Hidalgo Bellows, Kate. ''Here's How Title IX Could Change Under Biden's Proposed Rule.'' Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 June 2022).

Couple this major change in Title IX with the rapidly changing environment in college athletics (NIL, transfer portal, etc.) and increased expectations in research compliance, and higher education's compliance burden appears set to become even more challenging in the near future. That said, we will continue to do our best to keep you informed of major compliance events over the coming months.

Compliance risks are not going away, nor are many of the other risks you see on display here each month. We again invite you to review the events of the prior month with a view toward proactively managing risks at your institution. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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Anonymous Reporting Hotline

The University uses the EthicsPoint anonymous Reporting System to enhance communication and empower individuals to promote safety, security, and ethical behavior. Use this anonymous, confidential system to report situations, events or actions by individuals or groups that you believe unethical or otherwise inappropriate. Frivolous or unfounded reports do not help foster a positive workplace. This hotline service does not replace our existing reporting methods for reporting fraud, waste, abuse or other potentially illegal activities. The University continues to encourage stakeholders to report concerns or suspected violations to their supervisor or other campus entities as appropriate.

If you are uncertain if a situation violates University policy, is illegal or constitutes harassment or discrimination, you may use EthicsPoint to obtain clarification. We would much rather have you ask questions than let potential problems go unchecked. However, EthicsPoint should not be used for immediate threats to life or property. If the situation presents an immediate threat to life or property call emergency -- 911

Last Updated: December 17, 2021