UA Title IX update
Summer was a busy time for University of Alaska Title IX offices. Staff across the system prepared training and orientation activities, took in and responded to reports, provided resources to complainants and respondents, filled staff vacancies and conducted investigations. Further, the team continues to meet weekly and prepare, track, and audit all Title IX cases and complete other compliance work as part of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
Some of the vacancies filled this summer include:
- Neil Best, UAA Deputy Civil Rights & Title IX Coordinator
- April Stahl, UAA Deputy Civil Rights & Title IX Coordinator
- Graeme Abraham, UAF Lead Investigator/Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Title IX Progress
For the past several years, Title IX efforts have focused on training, reporting and compliance. Accomplishments include creating more awareness about campus sexual assault, completion of a campus climate survey, more training, and implementing a single software system for tracking cases across the system.
Recognizing that a safe and welcoming campus environment is an ongoing process, the university is deepening its focus on evolving as an institution in a way that ensures a respectful environment with an underpinning of safety, equity, and opportunity.
As part of this process, President Jim Johnsen met with senior officials in the Office for Civil Rights in June and discussed with them the university’s framework for how it responds to misconduct complaints, including delayed Title IX complaints. In September, university administration will propose a policy to encourage reporting of misconduct and provide a framework for handling delayed complaints. The draft policy will be discussed and reviewed in the months ahead, and come before the board for decision in November. The goal is to provide appropriate responses to all complaints, focus intensive efforts on issues that are more likely to have ongoing impact on the campus environment and that can more likely be remedied, and to ensure that formal investigative processes can be fundamentally fair.
Other growth is reflected in orientation activities planned across the system this fall. For example, University of Alaska Southeast student activities, Title IX, residence life and other campus departments are working together on a cohesive six weeks of activities themed “In Our Community” to kick off the semester. UAS is educating students both on the incredible opportunities available as well as the expectations for behavior while engaged in all that the university has to offer, beginning with Convocation. Title IX coordinators are building relationships across all our campus communities, sharing Title IX and bystander training and working daily to enhance the campus experience.
Training is essential to improving our campus culture.
This fall both students and employees will find updated training modules, the option to complete a short refresher training, and more options to attend in-person Title IX training. UA currently contracts with Everfi to deliver online training for students and employees. The Title IX team is meeting with UAA Academic Innovations & eLearning to develop a locally built online student training for Fall 2019 geared toward Alaska’s unique populations and issues.
UA received an increasing number of reports to Title IX offices this past year. While initially this may seem like a negative and counterintuitive to all the effort in this area, it is a positive reflecting increasing comfort levels and confidence with coming forward when something is wrong.
This increased reporting requires more capacity in the Title IX offices and departments receiving referrals, such as Human Resources to provide a compassionate, prompt and effective response. In response, President Johnsen has authorized one-time funding from Statewide to immediately increase Title IX and related staffing, with ongoing funding to be included in UA's FY20 budget request.
Title IX and related positions currently planned or under recruitment include:
- Three investigators at UAF
- An additional investigator at UAA (total of 3)
- Additional Senior employee relation specialists in Human Resources offices at UAA & UAF
- A Deputy Title IX coordinator at UAS
Compliance with the VRA continues to be a monumental task.
September 1st is the next reporting deadline for Title IX Coordinator annual training reports. The following deadline is December 30th and includes submission of all new cases for the past year; case audits; documentation of Title IX Coordinator and task force meetings; documentation that employees and students received Title IX training, students were properly noticed of their resources when placed with other entities, and all parties notified of Title IX responsibilities.
All of these efforts are critical as we continue working to improve our campuses and provide a positive place to learn, live and work. All members of the UA community are encouraged to do their part by taking Title IX training annually, actively participating in bystander training and everyday intervention and awareness opportunities, and taking responsibility for growing our culture of safety and respect.