Sexual assault reporting policy, ‘sanctuary’ campus resolution meet UO Senate approval

The UO Senate held a meeting on Wednesday, during which a new sexual assault reporting policy met approval, among other motions. (Will Campbell/Emerald)

The University of Oregon Senate passed three resolutions that could determine the future of student life in Wednesday’s meeting. One motion passed a draft on sexual assault mandatory reporting policy. Two additional motions make efforts to provide a “sanctuary” for students who feel unsafe and threatened after the recent presidential election results; one motion caused tensions to run high when it was met with resistance from a few senators.

The Student Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence Complaint and Response policy will divide UO faculty and staff into three tiers of reporting duties. The tiers include designated employees, who will report an offense under any circumstance; student-directed employees, who will report with the student’s wishes; and Confidential Employees, who will report with the student’s wishes, but have an added level of confidentiality.

The Senate met the passing of the new policy with applause. The new sexual assault reporting policy has been in the works since August. The emergency policy required almost all faculty and staff to report a sexual assault, regardless of the reporter’s wishes.

The new policy will go to UO President Michael Schill, who will have 60 days for review and approval. The policy will then be sent to the Department of Educational Civil Rights, who will approve or amend it and send it back to the Senate for approval.

Merle Weiner, chair of the committee responsible for drafting the policy, said the new policy “meets the needs of students who want to report, but also students who don’t know if they want to report. The mandatory policy took away that option.”

The Senate voted to suspended its rules, which is uncommon, in order to discuss and vote on two additional resolutions that were introduced on short notice.

One resolution, proposed in reaction to president-elect Donald Trump’s controversial statements on immigration, declares the UO a “sanctuary campus.” According to the UO Senate website, the following resolutions will be requested for the administration to enforce to the fullest legal action:

  1. Develop a protocol to make UO a Sanctuary Campus, in order to protect the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and the broader community.
  2. Protect student privacy by restricting the release of information about students’ immigration status to law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  3. Instruct campus police to refrain from collaborating with ICE for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
  4. Refuse access to campus to federal immigration officials for the purposes of immigration enforcement, except in exigent circumstances.
  5. Assign a specific administrative office to assist our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students and other students who lack the protections of citizenship on a strictly confidential basis.

The full resolution is here.

“This is a time of disruption. The universities — when they work well, when they’re beautiful, they occupy a role of intellectual and moral clarity during these times of disruption,” senator Chris Chavez, journalism professor, said. “This is that moment for me.”

Chavez said, “If we hedge on this one, what are we telling out students?”

The other resolution, passed under the suspension of regular senate procedures, reaffirms the UO’s principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, echoing an open letter to the campus sent by President Schill on Wednesday morning.

Senator Chris Phillips, mathematics professor, was unhappy with the wording of one of the resolutions, which specified it would “protect members of our community who have been rendered particularly vulnerable by the bigotry and climate of the recent political campaign.” Phillips wanted to clarify that students would be supported regardless of their political belief or affiliations. He said people may misinterpret the resolution as being partisan. The senate collectively disagreed and voted to approve the motion.

The forum on the senate website received a high number of comments, many of which were in support of the resolution.

Gyoung-Ah Lee, assistant professor in Anthropology, wrote in the online forum, “We need to demand the UO administration to support our students who are most vulnerable and also international communities at the UO with various types of visas.”

“This election result is a wake up call, mildly put, and I hope we are moving toward a constructive and inclusive direction for the better future,” she wrote.