Saturday, May 31, 2014

U of Alaska Joins Ranks of Top Universities - US Investigates How They Handle Sexual Assault

Harvard, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Columbia, and Michigan were among 55 colleges and universities listed by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights on May 1, 2014, as under investigation for possible violations for how they handle sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The University of Alaska system was not on that list.  But not to worry.  Alaskans are as bad as the rest of the country, maybe even worse, in how we handle sexual assault and violence and Wednesday, May 28, the University of Alaska system and four other institutions were added to the list.  From the Huffington Post:
Since releasing the [original] list, the department has launched Title IX investigations at the University of Alaska system, the University of Delaware, Elmira College in New York, the University of Akron in Ohio and Cisco Junior College in Texas. This brings the total number of schools with federal probes to 60.  [emphasis added]
The department did not elaborate on whether the five new inquiries are proactive investigations or come in response to specific complaints.

Alaska is frequently not taken seriously, so I'm pleased that the Department of Education does recognize that in this area our University does deserve their attention, even if we got listed almost a month later than the others.

NOTE:  For folks who read my sarcasm as making a joke out of this, I'd point out that humor is one of the ways folks deal with serious problems.   In no way do I mean to make light of this situation.  I'm sorry that the US Department of Education has enough cause to include Alaska on the list.  But, given that we have the highest rates of rape in the country,  those fighting sexual assault in Alaska should be glad the Department will look into this.  Even our governor, who generally is opposed to federal intervention in Alaska.  But our governor has pledged
"that Alaska would take every step necessary to stop the epidemic of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse in Alaska. "
I hope that means supporting a federal investigation that adds resources to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. 

Maybe the Feds will review the dismissal of the complaint at UAF this year. The original issue of the student's name being published seems moot given she wanted it published, but how the University handled the case and the impact on the campus climate and students' feelings of safety should be reviewed.

If anyone wants information about those fighting intimate partner violence and sexual assault and/or need help, go to the website of ANDVSA (Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault)

1 comment:

  1. The OCR investigation indicates that UA has serious problems with Title IX, sexual harassment, and other issues related to gender violence and lack of campus safety. All three major campuses--UAF, UAA, and UAS have paid large sums of money to a for-profit consulting firm that manages universities' risk of litigation, specifically including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Title IX problems. The corporation is the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) NCHERM is not concerned with student safety or employee well-being; its main concern (and how it makes money) is in advising universities how to manage their reputation around these issues. Consultants from the firm visited UAA last May, and are scheduled to visit UAF for two days in July 2014. Much of UAF's and UAA's Title IX, sexual assault, and sexual harassment policy language is lifted from ATIXA, one of the NCHERM's divisions. The current revision of the student code of conduct for the entire UA system also seems to be shaped by NCHERM, which totally bypasses the principle of shared governance at our universities. When did we turn over university policy-making to outside, private corporations? And how effective has this been, given that the entire system is now under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights? Interestingly, the CEO of NCHERM, Brett Sokolow, has been criticized by Title IX activists for some comments he made in interviews posted on men's rights blogs. I wonder if the fox has been guarding the chicken house here... But even beyond that, the fact that our university system has been farming out policy-making decisions that affect students' safety and well being just makes me sick.


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