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University implementing majority of Task Force on Sexual Assault recommendations

Sun, 09/13/2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has implemented or is in the process of implementing 22 of the 27 recommendations in the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual Assault final report, officials announced today.

The 22 recommendations cover a range of topics, ranging from policy and process to prevention, victim advocacy and support. A list of the recommendations and a brief summary of the university’s status or activity on each recommendation is provided below.

The task force’s final report was submitted to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter on May 1 at the task’s force’s final meeting. KU officials immediately began examining the report to determine how the recommendations could be integrated into the university’s ongoing work on the issue.

“Our desire has always been to position KU as a leader in how universities address this national problem,” said Chancellor Gray-Little, “and the task force’s efforts have helped make that aspiration a reality. University staff have worked diligently to evaluate these recommendations during the past four months, and I’m pleased that we have either implemented or continue to move toward implementing the majority of them. Of course, we continue to call on the entire campus community to join us in finding new ways to improve how we prevent and respond to sexual assault.”

University units involved in evaluating and implementing the recommendations include the offices of Institutional Opportunity & Access, General Counsel, Public Safety, Student Affairs, Public Affairs, the Provost, and the Chancellor, among others.

“The Sexual Assault Task Force underwent a long process of critically examining KU’s policies, practices and prevention efforts to identify a path for creating a safer campus and emerging as a national leader on this issue,” said Alesha Doan, task force co-chair and an associate professor of political science and chairwoman of women, gender & sexuality studies. “Today, KU has responded. Chancellor Gray-Little has begun the next significant phase of addressing sexual violence by implementing many of the Sexual Assault Task Force’s recommendations. The task force is extremely proud to have been a part of the process that will ultimately result in a safer environment for our students.”

Chancellor Gray-Little created the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual Assault in September 2014 to examine how the university prevents and responds to sexual assaults. The task force was charged with reviewing current policies, practices and sanctions, and was asked to provide recommendations for improvement. The task force met 13 times between September and the May 1 final meeting with the chancellor and provost.

The task force’s report was divided into four sections: Policy and Process Improvement; Prevention Practices; Support and Advocacy for Student Victims of Crime; and Evaluation of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The document includes research, case studies, examinations of peer universities and specific recommendations.

“As I said in May at the final meeting of the task force, I want to recognize the task force members for their dedication to identifying issues the university needs to address,” Chancellor Gray-Little said.

Recommendations

Charge 1: Policy and process improvement

Recommendation 1: Clearly Outline Procedures for Making Sexual Assault Complaint (Implemented)

Information about how to make a report is readily available at the bottom of every page of the KU website, on every university publication, on the front page of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA) website, and on the front page of the Sexual Harassment and Violence website. Additionally, information on how to make a report is the top search result on the KU website for the search terms “sexual violence,” “sexual assault” and “consent.” Information on how to make a report is the top two results of a Google search for “KU report rape” and “KU report sexual assault.” When someone has a complaint or participates in an investigation, IOA goes through a checklist of information to help the individual understand the process. KU also created new educational materials, posters and fliers to educate the community about reporting options.

Recommendation 2. Develop a Sexual Assault Response Team on Campus (Implemented)

In general, the university’s current response is swift and coordinated. Currently, KU participates in the Douglas County SART. Both KU Public Safety and Lawrence Police Department hand out victim resources cards that include information about KU and community resources and IOA reporting. Additionally, the two law enforcement agencies offer to assist victims in obtaining a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) examination. When KU Public Safety receives a report, they immediately contact IOA. Our Housing and Student Affairs units send reports immediately to IOA, and support services are offered to the student. IOA provides information about resources, implements interim measures, makes referral to the CARE Coordinator, etc. The CARE Coordinator attends IOA staff meetings, gets names of parties/affected persons and initiates contact with IOA.

Recommendation 3. Encourage Reporting of Sexual Assault to Police (Implemented)

All persons who make reports to the university are already encouraged to report to police. In many cases, IOA coordinates a report with a named detective so that a victim has a known contact to assist them, as opposed to simply calling the non-emergency line.

Recommendation 4. Provide Information and Data (Implemented)

Data were produced during the 2014-15 academic year regarding the outcomes of disciplinary cases involving sexual violence. Moving forward, we will plan to update this information at regularly scheduled intervals, likely once a year. We will also continue to look for ways to improve data tracking.

Recommendation 5. Modify Investigation Responsibilities So That Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Are Reported to Different Staff Members (Not Being Implemented)

All investigators who handle complaints of sexual violence have specialized training. Investigators receive training related to handling complaints of violence and are well-versed in understanding resources and victimology. There is no research or evidence supporting the proposition that someone who handles a sexual assault/violence complaint should not handle a sexual harassment complaint and vice versa. All investigators who have appropriate training should handle any complaint.

Recommendation 6. Modify Review Process So That More Than One Staff Member/Unit Determines Whether a Preponderance of Evidence Supports a Complainant’s Allegations (Not Being Implemented)

This recommendation is based on the belief that one university staff member is responsible for making a decision about whether the evidence supports a violation of KU policy. In reality, more than one person with expertise and training provides input into the decision. The way the process typically works is that IOA discusses cases during its staff meetings. A report is initially drafted by an investigator, who submits the report for review by the executive director or senior investigator, who also consults with trained personnel in other administrative units. The reviewer(s) confirm the investigation is complete and that the finding is supported by the evidence, and oftentimes the report is returned for additional investigatory work and changes. At this point, IOA determines whether a university policy was violated. After a report is issued, it is reviewed by Student Affairs to determine if there was a violation of the Student Code, in which case a referral is made to a hearing panel. Finally, both parties have the right to appeal.

KU could examine alternative approaches but would need to ensure that any alternative not depart from federal guidance requiring prompt resolution or the student conduct process, including the Student Code and requirements under University Senate Rules and Regulations. This does not appear to be what the task force intended.

Recommendation 7. Modify Hearing Process to Allow Hearings in All Cases (Not Being implemented)

This recommendation has problems on two levels. First, while the criminal process is designed to impose penalties on individuals who violate laws, the university process is fundamentally different in that it is designed to ensure that individuals’ behavior conforms to university standards and values. Given this, it would be inappropriate to require hearings across the full spectrum of potential complaints, given that many alleged grievances would be relatively minor. The fact of the matter is, not all offenses in the university system necessitate penalties and/or a hearing.

Second, we have restrictions in resources that make it impossible to have hearings in all cases. Specifically, we have a limited number of volunteer panelists.

This has the potential to result in a dramatic increase in the number of hearings and, based on our analysis, presents a number of logistical challenges.

Recommendation 8. Revise Definitions of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault (Implementation in Process)

It should be noted that the U.S. Office for Civil Rights previously approved the definitions we have. Given the lack of specificity by the task force and the implication of changing definitions, any changes need to be thoroughly researched and well-thought out, which takes time. We continue to research potential changes.

Charge 2: Prevention practices

Recommendation 1. Create a Central Prevention and Education Research Center (Implementation in Process)

We are currently examining potential models for a prevention and education center, and we anticipate making changes later this academic year.

Recommendation 2. Implement Multiple Prevention Programs to All First-Year Students (Implementation in Process)

We know that for information to be effective, it needs to be shared with audiences repeatedly and in various formats. Some examples of sexual harassment training we have done and continue to do are as follows:

  • Training for student and professional employees in KU Student Housing regarding bystander intervention
  • Training for student residents of KU Student Housing
  • Training for student and professional employees in KU Student Housing involving discussion of sexual harassment case scenarios
  • Training regarding consent for a variety of KU student groups and classes
  • Training regarding gender equity (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) provided to a host of student groups and classes
  • Training for undergraduate student leaders in the Scholarship Halls
  • Graduate student training in KU Student Housing by Student Affairs
  • Undergraduate RA training in KU Student Housing by Student Affairs
  • Training at National Residence Hall Honorary by Student Affairs
  • Training as part of National Hazing Prevention Week by Student Affairs
  • Training for residents in Battenfeld Scholarship Hall by Student Affairs
  • Training for residents in Watkins Scholarship Hall by Student Affairs
  • Training for Officers in the Student Involvement Leadership Center by Student Affairs
  • Training for the Triangle Fraternity by Student Affairs
  • Training for all “house moms” for fraternities by IOA
  • Training for University PRE 101 Classes, separately by each the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity (ETCWGE) and Student Affairs. 
  • Training for Fulbright Scholars (approximately 40 persons) by ETCWGE
  • Sexual Harassment Training for ROTC (approximately 75 attendees) by ETCWGE
  • Training on KU policy and procedure for community group GaDuGi by ETCWGE and IOA
  • Training for student leaders in the Student Involvement Leadership Center by ETCWGE and IOA
  • Sexual Violence 101, co-hosted by community group Willow Domestic Violence Center and ETCWGE
  • Sexual Harassment training for the Student Conduct Hearing Board
  • Sexual harassment training for international students, including discussion about cultural norms and differences in culture (approximately 200 students)

Recommendation 3. Address the Gaps in Services, Resources, Education, Planning and Prevention for All Students Regardless of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation (Implementation in Process)

Same as answer to Recommendation 2 above. In addition, we anticipate that a newly created prevention and education center (See Recommendation 1 above) would better coordinate and streamline the myriad programs and activities listed in Recommendation 2.)

Recommendation 4. Develop and Utilize List of Community Resources for Alleged Perpetrators (Implemented)

The university currently has a comprehensive list of campus and community resources and services for complainants and respondents. The written version of this list is provided to complainants and respondents, and the electronic version is displayed prominently at sexualharassment.ku.edu (under the Resources tab), where each listed resource provider is hyperlinked to that provider’s website so it’s easily accessible. 

Recommendation 5. Improve Data Collection, Evaluation and Assessment Process (Implemented)

The university has conducted three climate surveys relating to sexual assault in the last four years, providing significant data on the topic. The university is currently working on a climate study for next year, and the sexual violence survey will continue to be implemented annually.

Recommendation 6. Develop College Course for Student Leadership and Peer Educators (Implementation in Process)

Any faculty member with expertise in this area is welcome to develop a proposal for this type of course, at which point the proposal would go through the Course Approval Policy process.

Recommendation 7. Develop Comprehensive University Messaging (Implemented)

The university has been a leader among its peers in the quality and quantity of its messaging on this topic for the past year. The chancellor herself created the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, which met 13 times over the course of last year. We made the meetings open to the public and to local media, and we gave the task force the platform to create a final report — which was immediately distributed to media and the KU community and continues to be prominently displayed on the task force website. The chancellor also wrote specifically about the topic of sexual assault numerous times in 2014-15 in all-campus messages to faculty and staff. She also spoke to numerous boards and committees about this topic, including the KU Endowment Association and various school advisory boards.

Additionally, KU officials (particularly IOA executive director Jane McQueeny, vice provost for student affairs Tammara Durham and KU news director Erinn Barcomb-Peterson) have completed scores of interviews and information requests for media, including dozens with the University Daily Kansan, to keep the public and KU students informed of the university’s efforts related to sexual assault.

Additionally, we have spent the last year looking for ways to make our web presence and resource listings even better, clearer and more comprehensive. Information about how to make a report is readily available at the bottom of every page of the KU website, on every university publication, on the front page of the IOA website, and on the front page of the Sexual Harassment and Violence website. Additionally, information on how to make a report is the top search result on the KU website for the search terms “sexual violence,” “sexual assault,” and “consent.” Information on how to make a report is the top two results of a Google search for “KU report rape” and “KU report sexual assault.”

Recommendation 8. Create a Sexual Violence Prevention Advisory Board (Implementation in Process)

The Chancellor created the Title IX Roundtable in fall 2012, later called Title IX Advisory Committee. The primary purpose of the committee continues to be to identify strategies for ensuring that students understand Title IX and their rights under the same, including recommending training, activities and programming to provide education and raise awareness

To honor the task force’s recommendation, we have started the process of creating a new board to replace the Title IX Roundtable. The university is currently exploring two different organizational models for a new board and plans to have a decision by the end of the academic year.

Recommendation 9. Becoming a Jayhawk First: Institute First-Year Student Campus Residency in Campus Housing (Not Being Implemented)

This is not feasible for a number of reasons. For example, the University does not have adequate housing to make this possible.

Recommendation 10. Modify Fraternity and Sorority Recruitment/Membership Intake Practices (Implementation in Process)

We have discussed this with the greek community every year for many years, but the greek community has opted to not change its practices. We will continue to have these conversations and encourage fraternities and sororities to consider our suggestions.

Recommendation 11. Support Greek Collaboration with Overall Prevention Programming (Implemented)

IOA and Student Affairs staff have been in many of the university’s greek houses to offer prevention and education programming, and IOA has provided training with all new sorority members. Moving forward, instead of having a separate greek task force, we believe greek students should be encouraged to participate in the Title IX Roundtable (or its replacement board, per Recommendation 8 above).

Charge 3: Support and advocacy for student victims of crime

Recommendation 1. Establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Key Community Partners (Implemented)

In February 2015, the university and the city of Lawrence entered into a memorandum of understanding on sexual assault. The MOU refines and strengthens the ways the university and city law enforcement work together to address incidences of sexual assault and, more broadly, the topic of sexual assault and sexual violence as it pertains to students and the Lawrence community. The MOU covers a range of issues related to sexual assault, including communication during investigations, information sharing, the collection of crime statistics, emergency notifications and crime alerts, and training. To our knowledge, this MOU is the first of its kind in the nation.

We can and should enter into MOUs with additional partners such as Willow Domestic Violence Center and GaDuGi SafeCenter. We continue to discuss opportunities with these groups.

Recommendation 2. Establish a Protocol for KU Mandated Reporters (Not Being Implemented)

Currently, consistent with federal guidelines, employees are required to report instances of sexual violence to IOA, the Title IX Coordinator. IOA and first responders (for example, KUPSO, LPD, Student Housing, etc.) provide information about resources, including GaDuGi SafeCenter. There are also many underused resources on our own campus that students are encouraged to use. Parties are encouraged to seek the services of an advocate or trusted adviser. Requiring an employee to also contact a third party creates too much possibility for confusion about responsibility and may significantly slow our response and investigation process. It is also a breach of confidentiality and problematic for employees to contact a third party without consent to report this type of information.

Recommendation 3. Increase the Visibility of Resources for KU Students and Employees (Implemented)

This is being done many ways, as explained in multiple places within this document. Specifically, see Section 1, Recommendation 1.

Recommendation 4. Modify Discrimination Statement and Policy on KU Website (Implementation in progress)

We are implementing this recommendation now and expect it to be complete by October 2015.

Recommendation 5. Require Administrators to Educate Employees Regarding Their Mandatory Reporter Status (Implemented)

Current annual training contains information about mandatory reporting, and training and education efforts on this point will continue. For employees who are exempt from reporting (e.g., medical providers), the university distributes and documents distribution of a handout to someone who makes a report that includes information about reporting and resources.

Recommendation 6. Streamline Medical Services Billing (Implemented)

SANE exams are free of charge, and few students report using services at Watkins Health Services. Many use KU Counseling and Psychological Services, which charges nominal fees. Watkins and CAPS are already on the same billing system, so they are streamlined.

Charge 4: Evaluation of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities

Recommendation 1. Clarify Article 19. Section A2 of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (Implemented)

The clarification to the Code made by the chancellor in December 2014 makes these changes unnecessary. It must be noted that Student Affairs has tried to achieve comprehensive code change for many years but such change has been repeatedly rejected by Student Senate. There is nothing we can do without Student Senate support and action.

Recommendation 2. Clarify Article 19. Section A8 of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (Implemented)

Same as above answer to Recommendation 1.



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