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Newsletter > June 2017 > "University of Oregon Policy puts Control of Reporting Sexual Assault in Hands of Survivors"
University of Oregon Policy puts Control of Reporting Sexual Assault in Hands of Survivors
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fraternal leaders and, on more than a few occasions, university faculty members, have raised serious questions when some universities have attempted to expand the definition of mandatory reporters under the Violence Against Women Act, or of campus security authorities under the Clery Act to include volunteer advisors to fraternity and sorority chapters, or even chapter officers or faculty members. These efforts have gone beyond anything required under federal law.
Fraternity leaders and faculty members have suggested that such requirements discourage a survivor of sexual abuse from talking to advisors or faculty whom they trust. The survivor may not be ready to initiate a university or law enforcement investigation and all that is entailed in either of those options. He or she may simply want to talk with a mentor or advisor to help them think through the situation and understand options without automatically triggering any other action.
The University of Oregon gets that. Now, as of September 15, 2017, the University will have a new reporting policy1 in place that clearly understands and accounts for this concern. Oregon policy creates three categories of University employees. Designated Reporters, “responsible employees under Title IX,” are limited to high-ranking administrators and law enforcement officers. “Student Directed Employees” are those employees who may not report an incident unless directed to do so by the student bringing the information to them. “Confidential Employees” who are not obligated to report at all are those with a professional commitment and/or legal privilege such as counseling and mental health professionals, ministers and lawyers.2
Student directed employees under the new policy are to:
1) Respond with respect and with kindness.
2) Listen to what the student wants to tell you before handing out referrals and information.
3) Be sensitive to the needs of the survivor without being judgmental, paternalistic, discriminatory or retaliatory.”
The student designated employee is specifically directed to “follow the student’s wishes,” but also to help the student understand what resources are available on campus that could be of assistance.
In May, Darci Heroy, Vice President and Title IX Coordinator for the University, issued a memo3 indicating that the policy was developed by a group composed of faculty, staff, students and administrators who considered the issue over an eight-month period. Vice President Heroy said “the new policy is designed to increase both campus safety and confidence in our institutional response by encouraging even more students to seek support, receive services and report sexual harassment. It accomplishes this by demonstrating our resolve to protect victims and survivors as much as possible by allowing them to choose when, if, and how to take advantage of the comprehensive and compassionate resources that we offer.”
Oregon’s policy imposes no reporting obligations on volunteer chapter advisors at all –unless they happen to also be university employees.
Importantly, what the University of Oregon has done is put the control of reporting back into the hands of the victim, encouraging him or her to seek advice from trusted sources (which is what we hope chapter advisors are) knowing that it is still up to the survivor to decide what to do. Oregon officials appear confident that in the end, this new policy will actually increase the likelihood that survivors will report offenses rather than struggling with the aftermath alone when they cannot discuss their feeling and concerns with a trusted advisor without losing their ability to control what happens next.1
Hopefully Oregon’s thoughtful and concerned approach will begin a trend.
2 There are exceptions to the policy, for example, when the survivor is a minor or the individual receiving the report concludes that there is an eminent threat of further danger.