Campus Sexual Violence a National Discussion
By Monique Musick
UA Public Affairs
Alarming statistics of sexual violence on college campuses have brought the issue to the forefront of national discourse. Just this month the White House launched a nationwide campaign, “It’s On Us” targeted at young men, to mobilize them to get involved in the fight against campus sexual assault.
A report prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that about 1 in 5 women, and approximately 6.1 percent of males, are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college.
In Alaska, domestic violence and abuse, including sexual and intimate partner violence, is a significant problem. UAA’s Justice Center annually conducts the Alaska Victimization Survey. The results of these surveys are chilling, showing that out of every 100 women in Alaska, 59 experience intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both.
The Dear Colleagues Letter of 2011
In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights, a division of the Department of Education, sent a letter to all schools that receive federal funding to lay out their expectations pertaining to the handling of sexual harassment and violence. The 18-page document describes at length the various ways in which colleges must address and prevent sexual harassment so they are in compliance with Title IX. Schools were directed to take proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment and violence, implement preventive education programs and make victim resources, including comprehensive services, available. The document provided examples of remedies that schools and OCR may use to end such conduct, prevent its recurrence and address its effects. It has since been referred to as the Dear Colleagues letter of 2011. (READ)
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a section of U.S. law governing higher education in America. It protects students from sexual harassment in a school’s education programs and activities. It’s best known as a law requiring equal male-female representation on sports teams at U.S. colleges and universities, but it goes far beyond that. The law states that "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.” A hostile environment created by sexual harassment may interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s programs. Therefore, Title IX forbids sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and violence.
OCR Compliance Review
UA President Pat Gamble was notified on May 5, 2014, that the Office of Civil Rights would conduct a compliance review examining the university’s handling of complaints and reports of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, to determine if the university has responded promptly and effectively, with particular emphasis on complaints of sexual assault. COMPLIANCE REVIEW LETTER
The university welcomes this review. By the end of July, some 11,500 pages of information were provided to the OCR in response to the information request. UA is committed to creating an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. The review by OCR may point out areas where UA can improve. UA is committed to making those improvements.
Know Your IX
It is important for all UA employees and students to know who their Title IX coordinator is. They are:
- UAA & community campuses, Marva Watson, 907-786-1424, email@example.com, www.uaa.alaska.edu/deanofstudents/title-ix.cfm
- UAF & community campuses, Mae Marsh, 907-474-7599, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.uaf.edu/oeo/title-ix/
- UAS & community campuses, Kirk McAllister, 907-796-6473, email@example.com
- SW, contact either the UAF or UAA Title IX office according to your location.
For more information on Title IX, visit www.knowyourix.org
For a full FAQ on Title IX at the University of Alaska please read HERE.
Training, Outreach and Prevention
In addition to ongoing training for the Title IX Coordinators at the three universities, trained Title IX investigators are on all community campuses, including all rural campuses.
Since spring, UA has trained almost 90 percent of its faculty and staff systemwide through numerous opportunities, both in person and online. The result is some over 4,000 staff and faculty members have received the training throughout the UA System, and the training continues.
Training has also been extended to students. Bystander training, training regarding what constitutes consent, understanding what is and what isn’t sexual harassment and assault, what to do, resources available — all are part of this outreach effort to students.
UA's Title IX staff and administrators take allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously, including notifying law enforcement when a crime is suspected or alleged; conducting meaningful and prompt investigations; providing interim services to complainants; and employing the appropriate burden of proof when deciding student discipline issues. The burden of proof for complaints under Title IX are not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as in the criminal justice system, before action can be taken to protect and respond to the victim. Rather, the standard used is known as “preponderance of evidence,” which means that they only need evidence that the incident “more likely than not” occurred. However, the university responds immediately to provide a student with support services as soon as a report is filed.
UA is going to conduct a comprehensive “climate survey” on sexual assault and harassment to gauge the local impacts of the issue; to identify gaps in reporting, support or training; and to understand more fully what our campus climates are like regarding Title IX issues and where we must improve. The survey will help guide efforts to proactively reach out to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. People participating in the survey must be aware that questions are explicit, and could be upsetting to some.
The survey will be distributed to all UA employees and a representative sample of our student population. Participation in the survey will be voluntary, confidential and anonymous, with only aggregate results released. The goal of the survey is to improve safety on all UA campuses and ensure that sexual harassment and violence incidents are prevented to the greatest extent they can be, and that when incidents do occur, they are dealt with properly.
OCR Site Visits in October
The next steps in OCR’s compliance review are personal site visits to four different UA campuses. The schedule is:
- Monday & Tuesday, Oct. 6 & 7 – UAF, Fairbanks
- Wednesday & Thursday, Oct. 8 & 9 – UAA, Anchorage
- Friday, Oct. 10 – UAS, Juneau & Kuskokwim Campus/Bethel
OCR will host numerous focus groups during these site visits to gauge the university’s compliance, awareness, training and outreach related to Title IX and sexual assault/harassment on UA campuses. The university will work diligently to encourage turnout to these sessions. OCR specifically wants to hear from students, including members of cultural and ethnic minority groups, student athletes, international students, members of the LGBTQ community and others. Members of the university community are urged to be involved in the OCR site visits and compliance review.
For more information, please contact your Title IX coordinator as noted above.