New sexual misconduct policies yields increase in reporting

By: 

Senior News Reporter

Data gathered from the university’s Office of Equity and Access gives insight into Texas State’s newly implemented Title IX sexual misconduct policies.

University officials overhauled their approach to sexual misconduct investigations in August 2014 in response to federal mandates and pressure. Changes in the Title IX policy and procedure have likely increased the number of sexual misconduct reports and investigations, said Gilda Garcia, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator.

The term “sexual misconduct” encompasses a range of nonconsensual activities, including assault, exploitation, intimidation, harassment, domestic and dating violence and stalking, Garcia said.

Sexual assault topped the university’s list with a total of 27 reports from August 2014 to March 2015, according to data gathered from the Office of Equity and Access. Sexual harassment was the second most commonly reported offense with 20 incidents. Twelve incidents of dating violence were reported.

“I hate that there are any numbers because every number represents somebody who got hurt,” Garcia said. “One is too many.”

Title IX can be traced to federal laws enacted in the 1970s, Garcia said. For decades, universities interpreted Title IX as a measure to ensure equality in collegiate sports. Between 2011 and 2014, the federal government expanded the scope of Title IX to include sexual misconduct on campus, she said.

University crime statistics before the implementation of Title IX sexual misconduct policies can be found in the annual Campus Watch report, Garcia said.

The reports show three on-campus sex crimes in 2013, one in 2012 and three in 2011, according to the Campus Watch 2014 report.

Garcia said the data gathered from the Office of Equity and Access is not entirely compatible with Campus Watch, although some useful comparisons can be made. Title IX sexual misconduct incidents are not criminal in nature like those reported in Campus Watch, which may be a factor in the discrepancies.

“Title IX now requires the university to conduct an investigation separate from the police within 60 calendar days from when the case is reported,” she said.

Another difference is Title IX sexual misconduct investigations are not used to determine whether defendants are guilty, Garcia said. Title IX investigators instead determine whether “it was more likely than not that (the defendant) violated the sexual misconduct policy.”

“If there is 51 percent of evidence showing the (defendant) committed a violation, a sanction can be given,” she said. “Creating a whole initiative that tracks the reports and investigations (and) is separate from what the police do is a totally new function of the university. In the past, universities acted much more passively.”

The student disciplinary process for sexual misconduct can be found in the University Policies and Procedure Statements (UPPS), said Kimberly Duncan-Ashley, assistant director for the Office of Student Involvement. Cases involving individual conduct are referred to the Dean of Students Office, she said.

Students can now report incidents to not only administrators but also faculty and staff, Garcia said.

“With more people who are required to report and more people who are aware of that requirement, I think more people report,” she said. “As awareness increases, reports increase.”

Garcia said the Title IX numbers parallel trends from when the nation enacted Equal Employment Opportunity laws in the 1960s. Reports of discrimination were at first overabundant but then decreased along with with the number of incidents.

Garcia expects a similar trend with Title IX reports.

“As a community, we have to decide: Can we be fair? We can be,” she said. “If everybody could be kind every day, then I wouldn’t have a job. I’m OK with that.”