University News

U. delays sexual assault task force report, Title IX compliance

Report from Task Force on Sexual Assault, search for Title IX officer extend to end of fall semester

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 11:55 p.m.

The University’s efforts to better comply with the federal Title IX act have been delayed, as the deadlines for a final report from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and the addition of a Title IX Program Officer have been extended.

The task force, charged with presenting recommendations in response to campus dialogue about the University’s sexual assault procedures, will present its final report in March 2015, wrote task force co-chairs Michele ​​Cyr, associate dean for academic affairs for biology and medicine, and Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, in a community-wide email Friday. The final report was originally planned for December 2014, Maahika Srinivasan ’15, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, told The Herald in September.

Due to the scope of the research required and the widespread student input needed, the task force decided an extension would allow them to complete their work “thoughtfully, comprehensively and well,” wrote Cyr and Carey.

Justice Gaines ’16, a student representative on the task force, said he believes the task force’s delayed start this semester and weak faculty and staff representation contributed to the report’s extension. After scheduling troubles with the newly appointed task force members, the group did not begin meeting until the beginning of October, he said.

Along with scheduling, “the composition of the task force was not necessarily the best to expedite the process,” Gaines said, adding that he believes many of the faculty and staff “most involved” with issues pertaining to sexual assault on campus were not chosen for the task force.

Instead, those chosen “did not have the baseline knowledge that we need to discuss the issues more in depth,” he said. This meant faculty and staff members on the task force had to be educated on current policy and procedures, as well as student sentiment toward the University’s current standards, he said.

Due to the combination of a serious topic, a lack of expertise and a press for time late in the semester, Gaines said the task force decided it could not release a comprehensive report of recommendations by the initial December deadline.

The task force will issue an interim report in December with “preliminary findings” and “near-term recommendations,” wrote Cyr and Carey.

Gaines said he hopes the December report will serve primarily as an update for students but will suggest recommendations for Health Promotion, a program within Health Services, and the Office of Student Life that can be implemented immediately, since they will not require the Corporation’s approval.

Carey and Cyr stressed the importance of community feedback going forward in their email. Following a “teach-in/panel discussion” scheduled for Nov. 5, the task force has scheduled open forums on Nov. 5, 11 and 14.

Gaines said the task force has already met with members from Imagine Rape Zero to hear student voices and recommendations.

Separate from the task force, the search for a Title IX Program Officer has also been delayed, wrote Liza Cariaga-Lo, associate provost for academic development and diversity and the University’s Title IX coordinator, in an email to The Herald.

“This hiring process has been protracted in part because of trying to ensure that applications from individuals with high levels of experience working on university Title IX issues were included,” she wrote. “We have been doing actual outreach and recruitment of such individuals to ensure an outstanding candidate pool,” she added.

In a separate email Cariaga-Lo wrote she hoped to begin initial interviews for the position by mid-November.