“We have to do everything:” DePaul President addresses recent assaults, campus future


Kiersten Riedford

President Rob Manuel makes a point to discuss the importance of addressing the issues with Title IX with his administrative cabinet. Manuel made one of his goals, as states in his message to the university, to improve the Title IX office.

Robert L. Manuel has reached 50 days as DePaul University’s president. Those 50 days were filled with shaking hands, making speeches, and acclimating to the DePaul community. Now, the real work has begun.

Manuel will release a strategy at the end of fall quarter with his vision for the university. 

He previously served the helm of the University of Indianapolis since 2012 before his move to DePaul this summer. Now that Manuel finds himself leading a bigger school in a bigger city, he said he’s not rushing to make sweeping changes before understanding the community.

“Every day is a series of getting out, meeting people around the community, talking with students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members, community members, to try to figure out what is really important about DePaul,” Manuel said. “It is learning Chicago, learning DePaul, learning what is really important about DePaul’s people, then trying to craft that into a strategy.”

Manuel met with The DePaulia for an in-person interview at his office last week in Arts & Letters Hall in Lincoln Park. He discussed his blueprint for developing a leadership plan and spoke on several issues pertaining to the DePaul community early into the school year.

He said his strategy thus far has been to be as accessible as possible. Manuel attended numerous Welcome Week events, and invited students and staff to give feedback.

“It has been an interesting time because we are coming back out of severe isolation,” Manuel said. “There has been a lot of trauma with the last two and a half years of Covid, so the requests are interesting.”

Unfortunately, even with Covid-19 restrictions loosening citywide and students returning to in-person learning, this trauma Manuel speaks of can emerge in other ways. The DePaul community was alerted on Sept. 1 of two sex offences that took place on campus on the nights of Aug. 29 and Aug. 31, according to a university-wide email from Public Safety.

“We have to do everything,” Manuel said in response to these reported offenses. “The conversation has begun about how to educate everybody about the realities of being in an urban setting, and get support for the folks who were assaulted, as well as a very deep and quick investigation into the person who did them is underway.”

Manuel could not directly state whether the Chicago Police Department is investigating these offenses.

“Sometimes it goes right to CPD because of the nature of the infraction, and sometimes it is a Student Conduct Policy,” he said.

Following these on-campus incidents, The DePaulia ran an anonymous op-ed on Sept. 12 from students that criticized the University’s Title IX policies and response to sex offences. 

Manuel said that he read the op-ed, and plans to address these criticisms within his administration.

President Manuel discusses his ideas for DePaul’s future in an interview with the DePaulia last week. (Kiersten Riedford)

“We need to make sure that we are active, supportive, quick, and that we’re complete in that process as well,” Manuel said. “I think there is a desire to re-engage the intellectual curiosity, the spirit of curiosity that everybody has, in connected ways. I hear everybody talk about the DePaul they expected, which was a connected community that knew how to engage with people’s aspirations. We have got to design that.”

Manuel also released a campus climate survey conducted by IRMA on Aug. 30. Adjunct faculty, full-time faculty and staff were surveyed about feelings toward executive leadership. 

“Similar to full-time faculty and staff, adjunct faculty results show a declining trust in our leadership and struggle with work-life balance,” Manuel said in an email to adjunct faculty, full-time faculty and staff on Sept. 13. “On a positive note, adjunct faculty indicate increased appreciation of our faculty and academic leaders. These trends align with the previously shared faculty and staff results.”

However, Manuel initially did not include adjunct faculty. In an update from Aug. 31, Manuel addressed the omission and declined to comment on this issue.

“This was the first time we broadly distributed the climate survey results and not including the adjunct faculty data was an oversight, which I very much regret,” Manuel said in the email.

One of Manuel’s top priority areas for his first 125 days is shared governance. The IRMA survey also revealed that from 2019-2022 satisfaction of executive leadership from full-time faculty decreased, according to the survey. 

Manuel met with the Faculty Council for the first time last week. He will also host formal listening sessions for students. 

“How can the university be proactive in supporting the questions here so that we feel like there’s a network of support should something occur?” Manuel said. “My first kind of order of business is to look into what that network of support is and whether or not it’s appropriate for the time that we have.”

Connect with Erik Uebelacker: @UebeMMA | [email protected]

Connect with Nadia Carolina Hernandez: @naddivz | [email protected]