UTSA’s reactive sexual assault policies ahead of the curve
Marcus Connolly/ The Paisano
According to UTSA’s 2013 Annual Security
Report, four sexual offense cases and seven dating
violence cases were reported on UTSA’s Main Campus in 2012. Of the 13 cases, there were three incidents of “forcible fondling” and one case of “forcible sexual assault.”
The security report does not accoun for student who choose to not press charges.
One student at UTSA that was sexually assaulted and wishes to remain anonymous stated, “Almost every single woman I have met while at UTSA has had an experience to share with me about sexual violence. I think a lot of people are afraid to report it because there’s so many complications with the justice system and it’s very entrenched in slut shaming.”
Testimonies such as these led the Department of Education to pass a 2011 mandate amending Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX asserts that no person can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or subjected to gender discrimination under any educational program receiving federal funding.
The amendment also prohibits sexual harassment; which encompasses unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Under Title IX, if a school is aware of student-on-student harassment they are required to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent it from happening again and address the effects of the harassment.
The 2011 mandate added three additional required provisions: a school must adopt a procedure for a “prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee sex discrimination complaints,” a school must designate at least one employee to coordinate its Title IX enforcement responsibilities and a school must inform its students, faculty and staff of its nondiscrimination provisions.
These “school led” investigations of sexual harassment are performed in concurrence with police investigations, should the victim choose to use the school’s investigative facilities.
To ensure these new requirements were implemented, the mandate emphasized that if a school is found to have not taken prompt and effective steps to respond to sexual harassment or violence, the department will ask the school to voluntarily comply with the new provisions. Should the school choose to not comply, the department may then choose to withdraw federal funding for the school.
Since the 2011 mandate, the Department of Education has received far more reports from students that have complaints over their college’s investigations, often due to the failure of the colleges to implement the new provisions. The department recently released a list of colleges and universities that are under the category of “Open Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations.” One of UTSA’s sister schools, UT Pan American, is one of many schools on the list.
The list does not specify as to why certain universities and colleges are being investigated; however, a New York Times article indicated that students are often unhappy with their school’s handling of issues such as anonymity and punishments.
Leonard Flaum, UTSA’s Title IX coordinator, has worked tirelessly to ensure that UTSA avoids these issues.
According to Flaum, when a student reports a sexual offense to any employee of UTSA — from professors to residence assistants — they will be directed his office, UTSA’s office of equal opportunities, and the UTSA police department. The complainant can then choose whether or not they would like to press criminal charges through campus police, and whether or not to allow an investigation of the perpetrator’s conduct. Anonymity during investigations is guaranteed by Title IX.
The UTSA police department was contacted about this topic, but no response was received.
Pending student, the Office of Equal Opportunities will inform the perpetrator of the investigation and then conduct an investigation over a period of 30 days. If the office determines the case should be brought to the dean of students, a report is submitted. Either party can appeal this decision.
The dean of students will then evaluate the case based on the report he received and choose whether or not to grant the complainant a hearing before a hearing officer appointed by the office of student conduct. This panel, in compliance with the new Title IX provisions, determines the guilt of the perpetrator on the standard of whether or not “it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred.”
“Remedies for the complainant are determined by the serverity of the harassment, the most severe
being expulsion from
the university,” explained Flaum
All students receive information about their Title IX rights via email once a semester — in September and January — and the information spread during orientation through the student handbook.