University of Oregon Graduate Teaching Fellow Bethany Howe said mandatory reporting for sexual assault helps save lives.
“When a student comes to me to tell me something, they are essentially crying for help. They want me, expect me, need me to say something and do something to get them help,” Howe said.
Howe, a former high school teacher, shared her experience as a mandatory reporter in public schools at the UO Senate meeting on May 11, when the body discussed a possible change for the current mandatory reporting policy.
“[Students] need to know when they reach out, we will help them,” she said.
In order to comply with changes made to Title IX guidelines, the UO issued emergency revisions to its mandatory reporting policy in February 2016 that would be effective for six months. With the emergency revisions set to expire this August, the UO formed the University Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence to develop a university policy on employee obligations to report information concerning sexual harassment and sexual assault. The committee has met and consulted on the matter numerous times, UO Senate president Randy Sullivan said.
Carol Stabile, co-chair for the committee, said the group set out to clarify how to report and who is required to report.
“[We] are not trying to control the decisions of those who suffer from sexual violence by forcing them to interact with a single office,” Stabile said. “It is unfair and inaccurate to blame the policy [with] the intent of denying the survivors’ options … When employees keep silent, they are allowing sexual assault to continue to happen.”
Renae DeSautel, crisis intervention office director and ex-officio member of the committee, said that her office has received 200 reports of sexual violence this year and that “90 percent of them are the result of this policy.”
However, students and GTFs at the May 11 senate meeting opposed the UO’s mandatory reporting policy.
ASUO Senate President and former UO Senator Max Burns said the policy is unrealistic.
“The system is not efficient enough to handle [all the reports],”said Burns.
Burns said as a student employee at a residence hall, he once reported a sexual assault incident that lasted over a year, where the victim had to file a police report and describe the incident multiple times to different departments.
Representatives from the Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation Dana Rognlie and Marco Esters praised the university’s effort to clarify the policy but criticized it for “not protecting the ‘agency’ of survivors.”
They also raised concerns about the policy’s protection for students of color, LGBTQ students and international GTFs.
Jennifer Gomez, a GTF, also opposed the policy. She said survivors have the right to be in charge of the reporting process.
“When I have a sexual relation with someone, I give consent every single time – the same should be held for reporting,” Gomez said. “That is a betrayal … to disclose that information.”
Many senators agreed that more discussions need to happen before the body can vote on a policy to replace the emergency revisions made to the UO’s current mandatory reporting policy.
While senate did not pass the proposal to replace the emergency revisions that are set to expire soon, the body did pass the exemption portion of the proposal on May 11, presented by Title IX Coordinator Darci Heroy at the meeting, allowing the Title IX coordinator to exempt employees from reporting after a required training program.
On May 11, senate also passed a change to the definition of “student employees” to mean residential advisors, GTFs and “other student employees who supervise two or more employees” and the definition of “credible evidence” to exclude information obtained during a conversation that is otherwise privileged or confidential under state or federal law.
Sullivan said because the senate did not pass the proposal in its entirety, UO President Michael Schill will now have final authority over what happens to the UO’s mandatory reporting policy going forward.