UA administrators have only partially met the demands of a former student and survivor of sexual assault after paying the former student found responsible for her rape a $20,000 settlement in April.
Gillian Gullett, a 2020 UA graduate, was raped when she was a student in 2017 and reported the assault a week after its occurrence to the UA Title IX office. A three-person panel found the student she accused responsible for the assault and assigned him 10 community service hours. The anonymous student sued the university, claiming administrators mishandled the allegation.
Gullett met with then-Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz in April to request the administration meet five demands: donate $20,001 to support survivors, implement Callisto— an app with resources for sexual violence survivors— to campus, hire more trauma-informed staff in the Title IX office, require sexual violence education in freshman experience courses and keep all parties involved in Title IX cases informed about case status.
Although Steinmetz resigned as chancellor in June, Gullett said university officials agreed to see the changes through under a new administration.
“Steinmetz’s departure does not absolve them from paying a rapist a $20,000 settlement,” Gullett said in an email.
Gullett has been involved in campus activism since her April 2018 campaign “Don’t Keep it Under Cover.” During that month, Gullett carried her bedsheet around campus to bring attention to her experience and express support for other survivors. The campaign advocated for improvements to the Title IX website, which did not offer a clear process for reporting sexual violence.
“Whether it’s emotional resources or legal resources, or however a survivor wants to go about reporting, I thought there should be a streamlined process,” Gullett said.
Following the campaign, officials revamped the Title IX website in summer 2018. The updated website, report.uark.edu, now offers reporting tools and resources for survivors.
Coleman Warren, president of Associated Student Government, said ensuring the university meets Gullett’s five demands is ASG’s top priority this year.
UofA Cares, a division of the Office of Student Affairs that links students with support services, will use the $20,001 to aid survivors of sexual violence, said Laura Jacobs, chief of staff for Interim Chancellor Charles Robinson. Whether students seek on-campus counseling, financing to move to a safer apartment building or funding to travel home for rest and recovery, UofA Cares will work to provide them with resources, Jacobs said.
ASG will also launch a campaign to supplement the $20,001 as part of the annual fundraiser All in for Arkansas in March 2022, Warren said.
The Callisto app will be listed as a resource on the UA Title IX website in mid-October, Jacobs said. Gullett’s third demand for more trauma-informed staff to be hired in the Title IX office is underway.
Shanita Pettaway started her position as the new Title IX coordinator Monday. Administrators are looking to hire two investigators, a case manager, a deputy coordinator responsible for prevention and training and a staff assistant, Jacobs said.
Gullett requested in April that students be included in the staff selection process. Although undergraduate students were invited to sit in on Pettaway’s final interview, no students were involved in the actual selection of the candidate, Warren said.
Jacobs said the Title IX office’s student advisory committee, which will contribute to the selection process of future candidates, will be reengaged during this month after it temporarily disbanded in August 2020 because of COVID-19.
Administrators have fallen short with requiring sexual assault education in freshman experience courses, Gullett said. The UofA requires a sexual assault awareness training for all incoming students. However, staff members can choose whether to include sexual violence education in freshman University Perspectives courses.
“We are starting conversations with the UP coordinator and office to determine how it should be best integrated in the classes moving forward,” Jacobs said.
Gullett’s final demand requires university officials to keep all parties notified on the status of a case, which Jacobs said the university will honor.
Gullett will not be satisfied unless UA administrators fully meet the five demands they agreed to, and she thinks failing to do so shows a lack of consideration for survivors, she said.
“Not including students in the Title IX hiring process or implementing sexual violence curriculum in University Perspectives is lazy,” Gullett said in an email. “The message this sends is pretty simple: we don’t care about preventing sexual violence on campus and we’ll even pay you off if it means we can continue to ignore it.”