An update on Title IX at our university

From Dana Thomas, UAF chancellor

This week’s agreement with the federal Office for Civil Rights marks the culmination of a long review process and an important juncture in our ongoing work to combat sexual violence on our campuses.

Two years ago, our university woke up and faced some harsh realities. I am a statistician, and the numbers didn’t lie: an anemic number of reports in a state with a sexual assault rate that tops the nation, an unacceptable follow-through percentage on the cases that were reported, zero instances of major student conduct sanctions for perpetrators. More importantly, the people reporting incidents did not get the support and remedies they sorely needed.

We were failing our students, our employees and our community. My predecessor, moved by a groundbreaking film, felt that keenly when he addressed all of you in October of 2015. As I sat with my colleagues from across the system earlier this month to review the results of our three-year review by the Office for Civil Rights, it wasn’t difficult to find solidarity with his message of contrition. 

For years, our handling of sexual harassment and assault at UAF was lacking. That realization prompted a great deal of introspection and, ultimately, some major shifts in both our practices and our university culture. 

Today, revamped policies and procedures are designed to provide due process to complainants and respondents and maintain campus safety. This is a delicate balance that can lead one or both parties to be dissatisfied, even when done correctly, and we continue to learn from each incident. Because no process is perfect, we’ve adopted a software system to help make sure people don’t fall through the cracks. More people are making reports and we now have on-campus advocacy and supports to help them continue their education and navigate the Title IX process. Training and informational programs are increasing awareness and making it clear: Sexual violence is not tolerated here.

I have been a part of the UAF community for most of my adult life. We watch out for each other. We support each other. While we still have a long way to go, I am encouraged by the strides our community has made together. As we’ve learned and grown over the past two years, so has our resolve.

Be outspoken about the things we need to improve. Please join me for a town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Wood Center Multilevel Lounge. We must keep the conversation going and work together to stamp out this epidemic.

Our community—students, employees and alumni—deserves nothing less.

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