Officials: Policies Followed on Sex Crimes

By Rachel Walker
The Razorback Reporter

Click to enlarge. Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

Click to enlarge. Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

Eighty-six colleges and universities are under federal investigation after mishandling campus sexual assault cases. The University of Arkansas is not on that list.

The university follows strict guidelines when allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are reported. The university, however, has two different ways in which it deals with these crimes.

Title IX of federal civil rights law covers primarily women’s access to intercollegiate sports, however it holds more weight than that because college administrators must accurately report sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.

“It was enacted in 1972,” UA Title IX Deputy Coordinator Monica Holland said. “Most people when they think of Title IX in the context of athletic, as far as equal opportunity when it comes to sports for women. But it also at the base level prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex.”

Cases are filed against schools that do not handle sexual assault cases properly.

“Very broadly, individuals are reporting that universities have mishandled cases that involved sexual assault, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment,” Holland said. “So mishandling could be not addressing it, or addressing it poorly regarding all of the steps. The time from when something it reported to the time something is resolved. So I would imagine it’s something in between all of that, that these individuals are saying constitutes the mishandling of cases.”

Nearby Schools

No SEC schools have been placed on the list, but schools in some neighboring states have been accused of violating Title IX. They include Oklahoma State University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas–Pan American.

The SMU director of Title IX declined to comment but directed questions to the school’s Web page on Health and Safety Information and Resources.

The home page “Live Responsibly” features a theme that the school is promoting to those who work at and attend the university. Also on the page is information about a new campaign from the White House called “It’s on Us” and a student led campaign called “Not On My Campus.”

Title IX violations are serious. The University of Virginia suspended Greek Life after a Rolling Stone article revealed the mishandling of an alleged rape at a fraternity house.

“I think what we’ve seen at least from the articles that are written about the schools that are on the list … that students are indicating that they don’t believe reports were taken seriously,” Holland said. “That they were encouraged not to report or that the information was available that it should have resulted in they be found responsible and they weren’t. Or if they were found responsible for what they were accused of and that the punishment or sanctions didn’t match what occurred. And so I think you kind of see a combination of all of that. At least what’s based on in the news and what’s been reported as being part of the grounds stating that it has occurred.

“What we have tried to educate our community is that if you are a faculty or staff member they are advised of a situation as a university we have a responsibility to respond to that and investigate it,” Holland said.

UA Procedures

The process that UA officials follow to appropriately handle each case that is reported is as follows:

A student may report sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape to the Office of Student Standards and Conduct (OSSC), STAR Central (Office of Support, Training, Advocacy, & Resources on Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence), the Title IX office or UA police.

Cases are addressed in the conference room of the Office of Student Standards and Conduct. Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

Cases are addressed in the conference room of the Office of Student Standards and Conduct.
Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

When students report sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape to the Title IX office, staff there reviews students’ options and rights to see what they would like done with the situation. If a student decides to move on with the case, the accused is brought in to tell his or her side of the story. If Title IX officials think there is enough information for the matter to go forward, then it would go to the OSSC for a full investigation. Once the OSSC sends a report to the Title IX office and administrators there will determine whether there is enough information for a case to move forward and charges from the OSSC to be initiated. Then a hearing will occur where a three-person Title IX panel will convene and decide, based on information given. Either party can decide to appeal after the outcome, Holland said.

The Title IX office underwent a revision of procedures in October, Holland said.

“There will always be a constant review and a touching base and that if there are aspects of the policy that need to be modified or improved that’ll always be something that will be an option,” Holland said.

STAR Central provides advocacy. Advocates discuss and talk with students about resources that are available to them, said Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, health educator and director of STAR Central.

“We provide the information to them of all of the options that are available to them, what the specifics are to their case and help them process what their options are,” she said. “We honor what their choice is, should they chose they want to move forward, we will facilitate making a police report, we will help facilitate reporting to Title IX.”

Victims Have Options

Click to enlarge. Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

Click to enlarge. Rachel Walker / Razorback Reporter

Students can choose whether to use a campus office or report to police.

“I don’t know that our process necessarily stands out from other universities as there has been much federal legislation and guidance that dictates appropriate procedures regarding the investigation and adjudication of these matters,” said Rachel Eikenberry, director of the Office of Student Standards and Conduct. “As such, our process is consistent with this federal guidance and likely similar to other institutions that are in compliance.”

However, while the OSSC and Title IX are working together, the UA Police Department has other ways of dealing with rape cases.

“It is a very sensitive crime, and it is a very violent crime,” UAPD Cpl. David Brett Waddell said. “The victim can be in a very vulnerable and emotional state and we have to take that into consideration when we’re responding to a call like that.”

The UAPD has officers and detectives that are trained to speak with sexual assault victims, Waddell said.

“One of our main purposes is to let the victim know that the crime is not their fault, it’s never the fault of victim,” Waddell said. “We try to be extremely sensitive to their story and to their needs.”

Reports come from outside agencies, such as STAR Central or a women’s shelter. In these cases detectives are the first responders. They will take a victim’s statement, then the evidence process begins, Waddell said.

If a victim wants to press charges, evidence is sent to a prosecutor, Waddell said.

“Typically what we do is document all of the evidence … and then the prosecutor determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime does exist and he will decide whether or not to file the charges,” Waddell said.

Sexual assault, rape and related crimes fall into two categories, however. A rape is classified as a Class Y felony, punishable by four years to life in prison. First-degree sexual assault is classified as a Class A felony and a sexual assault second-degree is a Class B felony, Waddell said.

UAPD has authority to arrest on probable cause. The suspect is arrested and sent to Washington County jail.

Students may still go through the OSSC if they do not want to press charges, Waddell said.