Dear Members of the University of Portland Community,
Last week, students with SASA (the student organization Students Against Sexual Assault) wrote an opinion piece for The Beacon titled, “To hell with good intentions.”
UP’s Title IX team welcomes SASA’s request for dialogue, and we would like to start by sharing data about our work. We start with the data because we believe dialogue and action are most effective when based on facts. Please note, much of the data presented below was previously shared with SASA during Title IX Advisory Committee meetings and with the UP community via Title IX emails, articles in The Beacon, and informational resources posted at UP's Title IX page.
Preventing sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence through education
In summer 2018, Sandy Chung, Vice President for Human Resources, and Dr. Matt Rygg, Associate Vice President for Student Development, took on leadership roles with the Title IX team at UP – Sandy as Title IX Coordinator for Compliance and Matt as Title IX Coordinator for Education. Since that time, UP’s Title IX team accomplished the following in the area of education:
- During the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years, the Title IX team provided more than 7000 individual educational sessions each year; some UP community members were counted several times because they took multiple trainings. A wide range of subjects were addressed during these sessions – from consent to healthy relationships to bystander strategies to examinations of power and privilege.
- Before fall 2018, there was one staff member providing Green Dot bystander trainings for the UP community. Since then, the Title IX team reinvigorated the program by getting five additional UP staff members certified to be Green Dot trainers.
- Before fall 2018, UP did not require mandatory in-person education about consent and healthy relationships. Starting in fall 2018, the Title IX team partnered with Student Affairs to make this education a mandatory part of orientation education for first-year students.
- During the 2018-2019 academic year, several faculty members partnered with the Title IX team to provide an innovative educational workshop related to sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence titled, “Through the Fog: Power and Privilege in Relationships.” During spring 2021, Title IX team members will continue providing in-depth education by teaching a one-credit class called, “Gender, Power & Relationships.” We encourage UP students to sign up for this class.
Improving and increasing resources available to students
During the past two years, the Title IX team also worked hard to improve and increase the resources available to students:
- Students asked for a confidential resource through a neutral non-UP affiliated confidential resource, and some students expressed preference for this resource to not be religiously affiliated. In response, the Title IX team provided UP students with several ways to access a confidential advocate at the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC). VRLC has a staff member in their downtown Portland office with specific experience serving as a confidential advocate to college students in the Portland area; this staff member can meet with students on UP’s campus or at VRLC’s offices downtown. Although this advocate has the knowledge and experience to support students with law enforcement, restraining order, and other legal processes, this person also has knowledge and experience specific to Title IX processes and other non-legal resources. According to VRLC, to prevent potential conflicts of interest, they develop their own funding sources and does not accept funding from colleges for their confidential advocate program for college students. More information about VRLC is here.
- Students asked that UP provide confidential resources at UP in addition to the counselors at Health & Counseling Center and the priests who are members of the Holy Cross community. In response, the Title IX team provided training opportunities and support to designated program counselors at each of UP’s schools and staff members at Campus Ministry so that they could serve as confidential resources to students. In addition to other training, these individuals were provided the opportunity to take the State of Oregon’s 40-hour confidential advocate training.
- During summer 2018, UP’s Title IX website was completely revamped, and the website was changed to provide information about a wide-range of campus and off-campus resources available to students. The Title IX team also worked with Information Services so that the UP directory links to Title IX information.
- Starting two years ago, the University created a new staff position for the purpose of providing information and support to students; these job responsibilities are prioritized above all other duties. For the past two years, this position has been held by Meg Farra, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students.
- As of summer 2020, the University hired Emma Ahern as a full-time employee. Emma is a recent graduate of Willamette University. At Willamette, Emma served as an advocate and vice president of SARA (The Sexual Assault Response Allies), a peer-run advocacy and support program for victims of sexual violence. Emma has over 80 hours of training in advocacy and prevention related to her SARA work, and Emma volunteered with SARA for three years, regularly volunteering 20 to 40 hours per month or more. At UP, one of Emma’s responsibilities is to help develop student peer resource programs related to sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence.
Improving policies and processes to encourage reports, fairness, and accountability
During the past two years, the Title IX team also worked on improving policies and processes –to encourage students and community members to make reports to the Title IX team and to support Title IX matters being addressed in a fair, appropriate, and trauma-informed way:
- Starting two years ago, a new staff position was created for the purpose of investigating Title IX matters in a trauma-informed manner; these job responsibilities are prioritized above all other duties. This position is currently held by Sarah Meiser, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Compliance. Before these changes, Title IX investigations were conducted by UP’s Campus Safety Office.
- In the 2018-2019 academic year, the Title IX Office received reports about 94 Title IX matters, and in the 2019-2020 academic year, the Title IX Office received reports about 105 Title IX matters. These were increases of more than 150% compared to the two prior years.
- In the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years combined, there were 25 matters in which a UP student alleged that another UP student had engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact or sexual assault towards him/her/they.
Of the 25 matters involving student to student nonconsensual sexual contact or sexual assault, 13 matters were fully investigated. The Title IX Office was unable to fully investigate 12 of the 25 matters because we were unable to obtain sufficient information to investigate; oftentimes, we were unable to investigate because reporting parties and/or witnesses chose to not provide the name/identity of the responding party.
Appropriate Consequences and Accountability: Of the 13 matters involving student to student nonconsensual sexual contact or sexual assault that were fully investigated, the Student Conduct process or Informal Resolution process resulted in the following sanctions: 1 suspension (i.e., temporary separation of a responding party from UP), 9 dismissals (i.e., permanent separation of a responding party from UP), and 2 resolutions involving requirements such as no-contact orders and education. One matter is still pending.
As demonstrated by the data presented here, the Title IX team has worked very hard to support the UP community not just with good intentions but through concrete actions.
Although the Title IX team has worked hard and we care deeply about the UP community members we serve, we are human beings, we are not perfect, and we have more work to do. We apologize for the assessment question at the end of the Get Inclusive training mentioned in SASA’s opinion piece. The purpose of that question was to assess whether a student’s incorrect and victim-blaming type beliefs were changed as a result of the training. The Title IX team – and even SASA who was provided an opportunity to provide feedback about the Get Inclusive training and assessment questions this past May – did not see that some students may interpret that assessment question in an unintended way.
A learning we are taking away from the SASA opinion piece is this: the Title IX team needs to put more effort into hearing all of your voices and feedback. To this end, this year we will hold our monthly Title IX Advisory Committee meetings via Zoom, and we will invite all members of the UP community – students, faculty, and staff – to join us at the Advisory Committee meetings. We will post information about the dates and times of these meetings and events on Engage and UPBeat. You can also request to receive emails about Title IX meetings and events by signing up here.
To the students who have been impacted by a situation of sexual harassment, misconduct, or violence, we want you to know that the Title IX team is here to support you and the choices that you wish to make:
- It is your choice whether you wish to share or not share information with the Title IX team, with confidential or non-confidential resources on campus, or with non-campus resources such as the confidential advocate for college students at the Victim Rights Law Center.
- It is your choice whether you wish to participate or not participate in a Title IX investigation.
- It is your choice whether you wish to speak or not speak to law enforcement.
- It is your choice whether information about your situation is shared or not shared with your friends, parents, or family.
- It is your choice whether you would like to receive support and resources – including support involving academic and other accommodations.
Many students reach out to the Title IX team to tell us that they are not ready or do not wish to share information about what happened but would like to request support and resources. Please know that the Title IX team welcomes students’ requests for support and resources without preconditions. Supporting the wellness of students is our most important priority.
The Title IX team believes that all members of our communities must stand up against sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence. This means standing up for ourselves and each other. We ask all of you to join us in this important work.
Sandy Chung, Vice President for Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator
Meg Farra, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students
Sarah Meiser, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Compliance
Emma Ahern, Title IX Generalist II
Megan Cohara, Wellness Education & Prevention Program Coordinator
Title IX contact information:
www.up.edu/titleix - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Chung is the Vice President for Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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