Senate remarks: addressing sexual assault

March 9, 2015

Interim President Scott Coltrane provided the following written remarks to the University Senate:

The University of Oregon is at a critical turning point. We have an historic opportunity to make meaningful change in our campus culture, to reduce sexual violence and increase survivor support. We have all been working very hard for many months to affect change. I am very pleased to share some key initiatives we are launching that will help coordinate our efforts. And I ask for the Senate’s continued support as we work together and get into the more challenging policy and detail work

On Monday, at a campus forum, I provided an update on our progress and plan to better address sexual violence and support survivors. I thank everyone who attended and participated in our discussions.  At that forum I reviewed some of the policy changes, staff hires, and program investments we’ve made recently to improve prevention, reporting, investigations, support and accountability.

Some of the recent progress of the last 18 months includes:

  • Investing additional resources for prevention education and compensating student SWAT members
  • Creating a new prevention and response website, printed material and a 24/7 confidential reporting hotline
  • Hiring two new Office of Affirmative Action sexual violence investigators
  • Hiring new additional prevention and response staff members
  • Allocating an additional $15,000 for emergency survivor support
  • Creating new women’s self-defense credit classes
  • Approving new Student Conduct Code changes to improve process and accountability
  • Created more confidential reporting options in the Dean of Students Office and the Ombudsperson’s Office
  • Signing an agreement with Eugene Police to coordinate investigations with UOPD and the university
  • Completing an internal audit of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and launching an external audit
  • Posting sanctions of fraternity and sororities on FSL website

As you know, we have received three primary reports as well as input from the ASUO, which included more than 120 recommendations for how to improve how our campus addresses sexual violence. We are very supportive of the direction and intent of the recommendations, and will implement the vast majority of them. A few of the recommendations need further discussion.

There are a few key steps to implement this comprehensive plan. First, we need high level coordination – to that end – I have authorized hiring a new Assistant Vice President for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response who will be dedicated to coordination of sexual violence prevention, response, survivor support and Title IX investigation. This position will have responsibility and authority to work across units and departments.

Secondly, I am appointing a permanent Advisory Group on addressing sexual violence that will work with the new AVP and other VPs to guide, assess and track the work to prevent and address sexual violence. This council will be representative of campus and include our own experts. I am accepting nominations now for this advisory body.

To address issues of prevention and assessment, we are working on plans to conduct two sexual violence campus climate surveys this spring, begin a new bystander intervention program next fall, increase SWAT funding, and employ more consistent, student-centric year-long messages

To improve our response and survivor support we are immediately increasing our capacity for Title IX investigations. That includes designating two new Title IX deputy officers, as well as increasing number of confidential reporters. Additionally we will be reviewing our reporting policies to address concerns about mandatory reporting.

Finally, I am extremely grateful for the leadership the Senate has taken on key issues. During Monday’s forum we also had a conversation about the senate’s effort to create proposals for mandatory classes, create syllabi and classroom discussion language, and look into the review or revision of the faculty student relationship policy.

I again want to thank all who were able to participate. The forum was productive, challenging and illuminating. I learned that we have a lot of work to do on this issue, and that many on our campus believe we are moving too slowly on this issue. I also heard from others who cautioned us to move carefully and deliberately, and not simply throw money at the issue hoping that it solves the problem. The most passionate voices in the room came from students. I appreciated hearing their perspective and I heard their anger and urgency loud and clear.

This spring we will launch many of these initiatives, and I will continue to press for progress. I look forward to sharing more about our discussion and next steps in the coming days and weeks.  I thank President Kyr for reading this on my behalf while I attend the Board of Trustees committee meetings.