Letter to TheArkansas Traveler Editor:
I was pleased to see TheArkansas Traveler devote an entire issue to covering the topic of sexual assault and sexual misconduct on the UA campus. It is important that members of the UA community, particularly students, engage in a continuing, open dialogue about these issues. The UofA is strongly committed to creating an environment that is safe and inclusive. The university has zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment, including sexual assault and violence. The university consistently communicates to the campus community that all allegations of sexual misconduct should, and in certain circumstances must, be reported to the Title IX Office. The university has made efforts to make reporting and resources accessible through the multipurpose report.uark.edu, which is embedded in the footer of every webpage in the university’s domain.
In an effort to address and combat sexual misconduct, the university works diligently to ensure that allegations of sexual misconduct are addressed promptly and equitably. University policies allow for students who may have experienced incidents of sexual misconduct have the ability to pursue a formal resolution to address those issues by filing a complaint against the accused student with the Title IX Office. Each year, many students elect to participate in this process.
As Title IX coordinator, it is amongst my highest priorities to ensure that every victims’ report is treated with concern and care and that every person accused of having committed sexual misconduct receives fair treatment under a process that strives for neutral, equitable review and decision-making. This process is frequently the subject of criticism, both nationally and locally. The reality is that under this formal process for reviewing these allegations, much like any adversarial process, there will always be a party who does not feel that they received fair treatment or a just outcome.
There are typically either one of two outcomes: a student is found “responsible” for having violated university policy and a range of sanctions including removal from campus by suspension or expulsion is imposed — or the evidence of the alleged sexual misconduct is not sufficient to substantiate the allegations and therefore the accused is found “not responsible.” There is truly no outcome in which everyone will be satisfied.
I felt that last week’s Traveler issue featured stories that lacked a variety of viewpoints with regard to student experiences. There are many students, men and women, who could have discussed with the Traveler their positive outcomes and experiences. Students who would have been able to describe participation in a process that met them with accommodations, support and ultimately a conclusion that alleviated any concerns that might have prevented them from receiving the full benefits of the university’s educational programs. Their voices were noticeably missing.
My concern is, that by only including stories that feature attitudes of criticism and distrust, there will be other individuals who choose not to report issues out of a lack of confidence the university has the ability to address whatever issue they might be facing. While those who hold negative viewpoints are certainly entitled to express them, I believe the university’s actions show a continued commitment to the prevention and elimination of sexual discrimination and harassment, not just because we’re required to do so, but because it’s the right thing to do. For the second consecutive year, all new students were required to complete sexual assault and harassment training in their first semester. The Title IX Office continues to grow, as five deputy Title IX coordinators and a full-time investigator assist in receiving and reviewing student complaints. Students have the option to engage in yearly programs and campus campaigns, including many events during It’s On Us week in the fall and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, only to name a few.
I would also like to announce the creation of a Title IX Student Advisory Committee that I plan to begin assembling this summer to begin meeting on a regular basis in the fall 2018 semester. I would like this committee to be a group of student leaders who are interested in working with university administration to further the mission of the Title IX Office. These students will work with me to assess measures currently in place and identify any areas for improvement. Again, a variety of viewpoints are necessary to understand how we can all work together to achieve a safer campus community.
I look forward to continuing to work with students on these important topics.
Tyler R. Farrar
Title IX Coordinator