The break: Title IX was the best thing to happen to UAF this fall

Lakeidra Chavis

Sun Star Columnist

 

Title IX has been everywhere on campus—and for a good reason. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, the University of Alaska is currently under review for Title IX by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

But let’s be honest, this is one of the best things to happen to you, UAF.

Title IX is more than just equal funding for women’s sports teams. The law protects people against discrimination based on sex by any educational institutions receiving federal finances.

While it seems alarming that UAF is being reviewed, it is one of the 61 universities that the Civil Rights office is cracking down on this year. In fact, some of those same officials will be on campus next week to speak with students. The schedule is even available on UAF’s Diversity Facebook page.

However, it’s important to note that it’s a review, not an investigation. And while the university doesn’t know exactly why, Alaska in general, isn’t a very safe place for women, or men.

Approximately 75 percent of Alaskans have suffered from either domestic or sexual violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The measures UAF has taken since then have been pretty good, if not hit-or-miss. Title IX magnets with heart-shaped hands, anyone?

Information booths are everywhere, from Starvation Gulch to last week’s safety fair, and some administrators were even interviewed on KSUA to talk about the subject.

People are becoming more educated about impacting issues. Last month, every university employee, including myself, was required to take Title IX training—which really just consists of an awesome PowerPoint and a small questionnaire afterward.

But even now, some things need more clarification and understanding.

For example, the training makes everyone who takes it a mandatory reporter. This means that if someone confides in their friend about an experience they had that violates Title IX, that confident is required to report it. Kind of compromising, isn’t it?

And while I’m sure this will continue to garner discussion, especially as the school year goes on, it should be done so with open arms.

When speaking to a friend about these recent events, she asked me who was in charge of everything if students did want to report or find an advocate. When I railed off a list of people, she said that I knew the information because I am an employee—which is true.

As important as it is to create a healthier campus climate regarding sexual assault and Title IX, the everyday student needs to know where to go.

First there’s Mae Marsh, the Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity. In a nutshell, when it comes to employee rights, harassment complaints and sexual misconduct, she’s in charge.

There’s also, of course, the UAF Police Department. If you decide to file a complaint or report a crime, you can go to the station. A list of the week’s past crimes are posted on their website regularly, and the annual crime report, known as the Clery Act, is also available.

The Women’s Center, directed by Kayt Sunwood, is in the Wood Center. They offer confidential sessions and a supportive staff. The center helps men and women, and is safe-zone for LGBTQ.

The Title IX training was a great step forward, but it shouldn’t be the only step.

While it seems that UAF has a problem with budgets, academic performance, and consistency in general, student safety is not among the things you can just drop the ball on.

How great would it be for our university to take the initiative without being called out first?

Seriously, I heard about the review on Huffington Post before hearing it from my own campus.

But if this is what it takes for change, then so be it. I haven’t seen administrators this on the ball and worked up since, well, never actually.

So while this is stressful, it’s a win-win situation for both our university system and its students.

Improvement and accountability is the hallmark of education, and how amazing would it be if that principle could be applied to education systems as well.

 

 

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1 Response

  1. Mae Marsh says:

    Lakeidra & Sun Star Staff,

    Thank you for helping get the word out about the steps UAF is taking to stop sexual harassment and sexual violence. I agree with Lakeidra when she states that the everyday student needs to know where they can go. So I’m going to take a moment to summarize a victim’s options. Let me start by assuring you that the victim is always in control of disclosure. Below are options the victim may pursue.

    1. Silence. Of course, the first option is that the victim can tell no one. Experience informs us that it is not unusual for a victim to keep silent about the sexual assault for up to 3 to 6 months before disclosing – some choose to never disclose.

    2. Confidential Disclosure. If the victim wants assistance with recovery and healing but is not prepared to engage administrative or criminal processes, they can disclose to a confidential source. We have on-campus and off-campus places for confidential disclosure.

    On campus, we have the student Health & Counseling Center that can be contacted by calling 474-7043.

    Off-campus, we have many more resources depending on location. Here in Fairbanks our primary partner is the Alaska Interior Center for Non-Violent Living at 452-2293. Additionally, the AIC can provide a victim with an advocate which is a trained professional that will guide and assist the victim. For a complete list of places to confidentially disclose and access a victim advocate, please visit our website at http://www.uaf.edu/oeo/title-ix/

    I want to highlight that while the Women’s Center and UAF employees (other than Health & Counseling employees) are excellent resources, they cannot promise confidential disclosure. UAF supervisors and faculty members are ‘responsible employees’ who are required to notify the Title IX office about incidents involving sexual violence.

    3. Title IX Disclosure. Title IX engages administrative processes to stop the sexual harassment/sexual violence, remedy the victim, investigate for violations of UA policy and take action to ensure there is no reoccurrence. When a victim discloses to Title IX, our first concern is for the victim’s safety and wellbeing. Remember, the victim is in control and we work with the victim to tailor a plan that will ensure they can continue their education. This could include classroom changes, dorm changes, mentoring, tutoring, or even a no trespass order – to name a few. Additionally, the victim can request an administrative investigation and if it is found (by preponderance of the evidence – more likely than not) that there has been a violation of our sexual harassment policy, the accused individual will be subjected to consequences as defined in our code of conduct.

    Victims who are seeking Title IX disclosure can contact any of the below listed personnel:
    Mae Marsh, 474-7599
    Ana Richards, 474-7393
    Anita Hartmann, 474-7700
    Don Foley, 474-7317
    Jamie Aber, 474-1885
    Andrea Schmidt, 474-5174

    4. Police Disclosure. This allows the victim to file criminal charges and initiates a criminal investigation that goes through the legal system (here is when it is especially helpful to have a victim advocate). To prevail with a criminal charge the courts use an evidentiary standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ which is much higher than the UA administrative process because this process could ultimately sentence a perpetrator to incarceration.

    Mae Marsh
    UAF Title IX Coordinator

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