After administrative failure, a pledge to improve
Spencer Tordoff / Web Editor
Acting Dean of Students Kris Racina spoke quietly when she said how many of the 42 sexual misconduct cases reported between 2011 and 2014 resulted in sanctions of any kind.
“None,” Racina said. “Zero, as far as the records I have, and that’s not an easy thing to admit.”
UAF administration provided records for those cases to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which is performing a Title IX audit of the school. Residence Life and the previous dean of students did take some corrective actions, such as moving students to different housing or classes, and information was forwarded for criminal proceedings when relevant. However, no Title IX cases were taken any further than investigation by UAF. Sanctions that should have been imposed under the student code of conduct, ranging from attending sexual misconduct training all the way up to expulsion, were not carried out.
“We did not follow our student code of conduct,” Racina said. “We weren’t following the discipline part of it.”
In the cases under investigation, five perpetrators that should have faced suspension or expulsion for their actions under the student code of conduct received no punishment from university administration. Racina would not name a specific person or organization that failed to carry out the sanctions.
“Somebody wasn’t doing their job,” Racina said. “That’s as baldly as I can put it.”
Since taking over as interim dean of students in January, Racina has received 44 reports of sexual misconduct, a substantial increase over recent years. According to statistics provided by Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, two perpetrators were suspended, and one was removed from the university as a result of 2015 cases.
Though reporting has increased, Racina expressed concern that sexual assault cases are still generally under-reported at UAF. She noted that 20 to 25 percent of women encounter sexual misconduct during their university experience, but the number of reports don’t reflect those percentages.
“They’re under-reported because… people don’t feel like they get a warm reception when they do report,” said Racina, “and they don’t feel like anything happens on the criminal side.”
New processes and lines of communication, including UA system-wide incident tracking software, are being implemented by Racina and the campus Title IX office. For the time being, the acting dean of students stressed that UA-affiliated adults should know that their conduct matters, be it on or off-campus.
“If you’re a university student, the lesson is ‘be aware of your rights and responsibilities,'” Racina said. “Just because it might happen over on Fairbanks Street doesn’t mean it’s not going to have an effect here.”