Title IX and UAS

erin-laughlinBY ERIN LAUGHLIN
For the UAS Whalesong

UAS students will see a stronger presence of Title IX on campus in the next year as the UA system complies with a resolution agreement from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

In May 2014 the OCR began a three-year review of the University of Alaska’s handling of sexual harassment and assault cases.

The OCR’s review found a multitude of Title IX compliance problems throughout the UA system, including 23 specific harassment and assault cases.

As a result of the findings, UA President Jim Johnsen signed a voluntary agreement with OCR on Feb. 20. The agreement outlines specific steps the UA system will take to improve campus climate and safety.

In a message to the UAS community, UAS Chancellor Richard Caulfield said, “The findings are a catalyst for making improvements in line with priority improvements that are already underway and will be pursued aggressively under the new agreement.”

Even before OCR finished its review, UAS hired Lori Klein as full-time Title IX Coordinator. Klein said her job has  “three pillars:” compliance, response, and prevention.

Compliance

Klein said the audit has given UAS the ability “to put fine focus” on compliance.

“I am looking to make sure we are compliant with federal regulations under Title IX, state law, and Board of Regents policy,” she said.

Under the OCR agreement, Title IX Coordinators from all UA schools will be working toward compliance. The agreement outlines 30 changes that must be made to UA Title IX policies and grievance procedures by May 2017.  The goal is to make reporting Title IX problems easier by being understandable and accessible for students.

Response

The second part of Klein’s job is response.

“I am here to respond to any reports of sex or gender-based discrimination, and provide information and support. There is a whole scope of service Title IX is supposed to provide in situation response.”

The resolution agreement requires that UA schools coordinate with local law enforcement by May 1.

The White House Task Force on Protecting Students describes the importance of local law enforcement and Title IX offices in a Jan. 2015 document, “Partnership between local law enforcement and the Title IX office can strengthen, and help sustain, efforts to prevent and effectively respond to sexual assault using a fair, victim-centered, and trauma-informed approach.”

Klein said the UAS Title IX office not only works with local law enforcement, but also advocacy programs like AWARE.  She said strong bonds with other organizations allows student victims to choose whatever plan of action for support they decide.

Prevention

The third area of the UAS Title IX coordinator’s job is prevention and awareness, Klein said.

“Programing, education, and training; making sure those things are in place and making sure people have access to them,” she said.

UAS campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan reported no Title IX problems between 2011 and 2015. While this may sound like a good thing, Klein said, no reports do not mean Title IX problems did not occur.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

The UA resolution agreement requires campuses to host student information sessions, provide them with general Title IX materials, and train all employees responsible for recognizing and reporting Title IX issues.

By creating awareness of Title IX rights, students will be educated on the steps to reporting issues, and in turn, get the support and help they deserve.

Any students who want more information on Title IX can reach Lori Klein by phone at 796-6036 or email at laklein@alaska.edu

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