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The debate around mandatory reporting is not over



When the Faculty Senate rejected a proposed revision to the university’s responsible employee policy, most of the conversation centered around the issue of required reporting for incidents of sexual assault and harassment.

Boiled down, the debate coalesces around who is a reporter and how many are on campus, as well as whether reporters, not the survivors, should be the ones to put an incident on file.

According to Title IX and The Clery Act, mandated reporters are in place to ensure that the school can respond “promptly and effectively to sexual harassment.” For many however, these reporters are seen as allies of institutions rather than survivors of sexual assault, who may not want the incident reported or their name attached to an official incident report.

“I absolutely think that mandatory reporting protects the institutions and university, not the survivor at all,” Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and activist said. “It does a disservice to survivors.”

Jennifer Freyd, a Psychology professor at UO joins Tracy in pushing back against the requirement for all university employees to be required reporters. Her website provides links to a number of American universities that don’t enforce employee-wide reporting.

Responsible reporting is about, “Giving student and survivors options and control/autonomy,” Freyd said in an email, “To me this means letting survivors decide what they want to have happen to their personal information.”

The goal of the mandated reporters policy was to “present a policy that was very survivor central,” said Carol Stabile, a professor in the SOJC who spearheaded the rejected overhaul.

Keeping survivors at the center of the policy included steps such as clarifying who is and isn’t a mandated reporter. Currently, all university employees are listed as mandatory reporters for instances of sexual assault or harassment that they have “credible information for.”

 

When reporters are given evidence that harassment has taken place, they must make a formal report.

In an attempt to return control to the hands of survivors, Tracy, Freyd and others recommend that universities embrace tools such as Project Callisto.

The program allows victims of sexual assault to file a claim immediately, without being required to submit any information to authorities. However, if the accused perpetrator appears in another report, the Callisto team notifies the survivors. This accountability, coupled with the knowledge that they are not alone, is meant to encourage survivors to stand together.

“It gives all of the control to the survivor,” Tracy said, “I think using a system like [this] is not only going to increase reporting, but increase timely reporting.”

Reports at UO have gone up exponentially, according to Darci Heroy, interim Title IX Coordinator, but the concrete numbers have not been released.

With an end to the current “responsible employee” policy on the horizon, the Senate will continue to face the obstacles that are associated with responsible reporting.

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Max Thornberry

Max Thornberry