Live-blog: Senate meets on Mandatory Reporting / Responsible Employee policy, course overlap

The focus of the meeting was the new “Responsible Reporting Policy”. There was lots of interesting debate, some amendments, and a decision to hold an additional Senate meeting next Wednesday the 18th to continue working on this policy.

DRAFT  Senate Meeting Agenda – May 11, 2016

2015-2016AgendasWatch LiveUniversity Senate Blog

Browsing Room, Knight Library; 3:00-5:00 pm

3:00 pm    Introductory Remarks, Senate President Randy Sullivan

3:00 pm    1.   Call to Order

3:00 pm    2.   Approval of Minutes  2.1      April 20, 2016

3:02 pm    4.   New Business

3:02 pm            4.1      US15/16-29: Repeal of Obsolete OUS Academic Policies; The Senate Curriculum Matters Policy Working Group and the Senate Executive Committee

Discussed at the last meeting, passes unanimously.

3:07 pm            4.2      US15/16-27: Revision of Academic Classification and Rank policy; Senate Employment Matters Work Group and Senate Executive Committee

Dreiling: Asked Triplett that the policy include links to the TRP and emeritus policies. Sullivan: It will.

Passes unanimously.

3:12 pm            4.3      US15/16-28: Revision of Sabbatical Leave policy; Senate Employment Matters Work Group and Senate Executive Committee

Passes unanimously.

3:15 pm            4.4      US15/16-23: Responsible Employee Policy; Committee on Sexual & Gender-Based Violence

Some links and background:

The proposed new policy is here. It repeals parts of old policies.

“2.1 THEREFORE, the University Senate approves of the attached Policy on UO Responsible Employee Duty to Report Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.  This policy repeals university policies 580-15-005 through 580-15-010 and 571-03-L(1) through L(4).”

There’s no link to these, and if you google Chuck Triplett’s policy page you get “Your search – 580-15-005 site:policies.uoregon.edu – did not match any documents.” So I asked Triplett for them, and he sent me these files:

Redlined: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/971644/uomatters/sexassault/UO%20Policy%20571%20003%20Temp%20Redline%20Section%20L.pdf

Clean: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/971644/uomatters/sexassault/UO%20Policy%20571%20003%20Temp%20Clean%20Section%20L.pdf

Sorry, I’m listening not blogging.

After a thorough debate and several amendments, at 4:52

3:45 pm            4.5      US15/16/-25: Scheduling of Examinations Policy; Undergraduate Council and Senate Executive Council

4:00 pm            4.6      US15/16-24: Major/Minor/Certificate/Program Course Overlap Policy; Undergraduate Council

4:20 pm    5.   Open Discussion

4:20 pm    6.   Reports

6.1      “Academic Continuity,” Academic Integrity Taskforce

4:45 pm    7.   Notice(s) of Motion

4:45 pm    8.   Other Business

8.1      Executive Session – Affirm Award recipients for 4 senate awards

5:00 pm    9.   Adjournment

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3 Responses to Live-blog: Senate meets on Mandatory Reporting / Responsible Employee policy, course overlap

  1. Anonymous says:

    A little help please?

    The issues that are currently being raised about mandatory reporting aren’t exactly new ideas. My understanding was that they were thought to be “necessary evils” to solve the problem of the vast underreporting of sexual harassment/assault. Is that thinking undergoing revision?

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  2. Dana Rognlie says:

    Several members from the Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the GTFF will be in attendance at today’s meeting. Please see our following letter regarding policies for responsible employees to be voted on this afternoon:

    To the members of the UO Faculty Senate,

    The Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF; AFT-3544) would like to address the proposed policy regarding responsible employee obligations that will be put to a vote on May 11th, 2016.

    We deeply appreciate the commitment by the UO Faculty Senate to provide needed resources and support to students who have experienced prohibited discrimination and harassment. We also appreciate the clear and concise language describing the obligations of graduate employees with regards to reporting prohibited discrimination in the proposed policy. We have confidence the proposed policy will greatly alleviate confusion about required reporting obligations, which has been expressed in the past by members of the GTFF and campus community regarding past practice and policy procedure. For example, the clarification that events such as Take Back the Night will be exempt from reporting obligations will relieve survivors from the fear that their story may be reported without their permission. Similarly, it will free responsible university employees to attend and support such events wholeheartedly, without feeling that civil disobedience is necessary to support survivors. This is a foundational shift in creating trust, which is the key to creating safe, empowering, and healing spaces for survivors. The ability for survivors to disclose their experiences to their peers and community both safely and on their own terms is a significant step in their healing process. We commend the proposed policy and believe it is part of the necessary process of creating spaces that empower those who were harmed.

    In fact, such spaces are a model for our institutional policies: we think that survivors of trauma or prohibited discrimination should always have the agency to talk about their experiences without fear of retaliation or breach of confidentiality. This survivor-centered position is supported by leading research in the field of psychology, notably Dr. Jennifer Freyd’s institutional betrayal trauma theory and Dr. Judith Herman’s complex trauma theory. It is also supported by contemporary critical observation and experience. Displacing agency from survivors, as mandated by required reporting, often greatly exacerbates the original trauma; it can be traumatizing in-and-of-itself. Required reporting inflicts harm on students.

    In light of this evidence, we are disappointed that the proposed policy implies that the institution will continue to demand university workers (graduate employees, faculty, and staff) to participate in the retraumatization of students by requiring the disclosure of a survivor’s experience to a third person without the survivor’s consent. We understand such reports remain confidential and are part of an attempt to bring visibility to this issue, combating past sweep-it-under-the-rug practices by introducing the potential for disciplinary workplace penalty upon failure to report. However, involuntary disclosure undermines confidentiality and trust in educators and the university as a whole. This is especially damaging to students of color and genderqueer students whose trust in historically white, heteronormative U.S. institutions is very low. Required reporting squanders rather than builds this trust. Rather than relying on required reporting, we advise the UO Faculty Senate to consider ways in which we might establish and build trust in our institution. This means enabling survivors to navigate their healing and justice process on their own terms. This is not a call to abandon survivors; it is a call to take this opportunity to structure our university in a way that will best support them.

    Many graduate employees, faculty, and staff recognize the harm that is done by reporting someone’s experience of prohibited discrimination without consent. However, many also fear that not reporting will have negative consequences on their employment. This is especially problematic for international graduate employees whose future in this country depends on being engaged as a graduate employee. Forcing a graduate employee, faculty, or staff member to choose between retraumatizing a student and violating the terms of their employment places an undue burden upon the worker and the disclosing survivor. This burden is exacerbated by the regular friendships formed by graduate employees between undergraduates, other graduate employees, advisors and committee members, other faculty, and staff. We know of instances where the looming burden of required reporting produced hesitation in survivors reaching out and disclosing to friends; such barriers within relationships produces major impediments to a survivor’s healing process. Unfortunately, the policies currently proposed by the Faculty Senate do not address such intersections. If these policies are confirmed, we predict confusion, misinformation, and underground civil disobedience will continue to be widespread.

    We acknowledge that maintaining a safe campus also means that perpetrators need to be brought to justice. Research demonstrates, however, that the current legal and university structures are inadequate to produce justice for survivors and the community. While more conversations and future actions will be required to achieve such goals, there is no sufficient evidence that required reporting is needed, let alone conducive, in this process. There is, however, substantial evidence demonstrating that required reporting harms the very people it is supposed to protect.

    One pragmatic option would be to pass the “Exempt Employee Amendment,” which offers an exemption from required reporting obligations for employees certified in sexual violence advocacy and university procedure. Current required reporting mandates are predicated upon broad interpretations of a reasonability standard in federal policy: anyone whom a student might reasonably believe has authority within their institution must report. Current practice interprets this as any university employee with any kind of authority in a student’s life, but in many cases it is much more reasonable for a student to assume their university confidant will not report, especially not without consent (e.g., an instructor trained in sexual violence advocacy, a faculty teaching course content critical of contemporary legal practices regarding rape, a friend at work, etc.). In this climate, student disclosures are nothing short of a leap of faith with a Catch-22 awaiting them and their confidant on the other side: if a student trusts a university employee enough to disclose, the employee must either breach that trust (and the latest research) to file an involuntary report or the student and employee must agree to a pact of secret civil disobedience. This dynamic can be utterly burdensome, particularly for instructors teaching the latest critical research on trauma and sexual violence, which is where many student disclosures cluster. Relieving trained workers from required reporting will allow for a more healing pedagogical relationship; many workers already have such training and regularly employ it when students disclose, though under the above described duress. The exemption will also increase the diversity of confidential staff at the University of Oregon, benefiting our students of color and genderqueer students. Indeed, the Exempt Employee Amendment will ensure further accessibility to resources and support for vulnerable and traumatized students in our campus community.

    For the reasons outlined above, the GTFF Sexual Violence Support Caucus urges the UO Faculty Senate to:

    • Clarify that information received in private conversations is not “credible evidence” as defined in II.H of these policies;
    • Pass the Exempt Employee Amendment, but with clarification that survivors may be de-identified in required confidential consultations so this amendment does not reproduce our above stated concerns;
    • Ensure the availability of trainings for exempt employee certification at the University of Oregon;
    • Hold the administration of the University of Oregon accountable for establishing a survivor-centered system based on trust rather than mandates or monied interests.

    We recognize that university policies must comply with federal and state laws. However, these laws allow universities to interpret the ‘reasonability’ standard of students and the responsibilities of workers on their own. Rather than solidify the status quo, we should all use this opportunity to create a campus that is truly safe and empowering to everyone. We believe that anyone who has experienced discrimination, harassment, or violence should always have full agency over their experiences. We urge you to help us build a university reflective of this.

    In solidarity,
    The Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (AFT-3544)

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  3. Jennifer Gomez says:

    My reply to the UO Senate.

    Dear UO Senate,

    Having read the relevant documents and having spoken at the May 11 Senate meeting, I can understand the frustration around having to postpone a vote on the proposed required reporting policy.

    While unfortunate, I think it is unavoidable. In my humble opinion as a graduate student, I worry that it would be irresponsible for the Senate to pass the policy at this point when so many of the key issues have yet to be addressed. It appears to me that the proposal at the table is simply not ready.

    Painting dissenters and their viewpoints as isolated opinions that come from faculty trying to get out of doing their job is not only inaccurate and insulting, but perhaps more importantly, is a red herring that does not actually address the very important issues that have been raised.

    I first will provide an incomplete list of dissenters to demonstrate the diverse individuals who have thoughtfully opposed the policy.

    I then will provide an incomplete list of the issues that to my knowledge have yet to be addressed.

    I invite proponents of the proposed policy from the committee to please respond to the questions listed below.

    INCOMPLETE LIST OF DISSENTERS

    1. Anonymous graduate student (http://survivorautonomy.blogspot.com)
    2. UO OASA (Organization Against Sexual Assault), undergraduate student organization (on this blog)
    3. Brenda Tracy, nationally recognized advocate against sexual violence on college campuses (on this blog)
    4. BB Beltran, Director of SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services), which works with many UO college students who are survivors of sexual violence (on this blog)
    5. Individual graduate students (on this blog)
    6. Jennifer Freyd, expert on sexual violence (Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-j-freyd/the-problem-with-required_b_9766016.html)

    REMAINING ISSUES*
    *Taken directly from the anonymous graduate student open letter
    (http://survivorautonomy.blogspot.com)

    A. Why not require that responsible employees must abide by the wishes of the survivors of sexual violence and victims of other forms of discrimination?

    I myself do not have doubt that there is a great likelihood for harm when any employee–perhaps faculty in particular–does not report a case when that is what the university member–perhaps particularly students–wants.

    There also seems to be little doubt at this point that powering-over adults and deciding for them where their private information goes is also likely harmful.

    If consent is important in sexual relations, with lack of consent indicating assault, then shouldn’t consent in the reporting process also be primary?

    Why not have a policy that does hold employees accountable and responsible by requiring that they follow the wishes of the adult who has disclosed to them?

    B. What about civil disobedience?

    There are multiple precedents for the problems that arise when governing bodies make rules that force its members to go against their moral compass in order to serve the governing body (e.g., the Nuremberg defense).

    It is a reasonable position–and one that is held by many–that it would be a harmful betrayal to disclose an adult’s experience(s) of victimization (sexual violence and other forms of discrimination) without their consent.

    Therefore, if the proposed policy passes, there likely will be individuals who simply do not abide by it because they feel in their heart of hearts that it is wrong (and/or they themselves do not trust the UO, would not report themselves, and are against having to then report on others).

    What this would create then is an inconsistent system in which it would remain unclear as to what would happen when a disclosure is made. That reality is rife with potential for betrayal and harm.

    C* Silencing reports

    “If “any information received”, as the proposed policy states, is required to be disclosed to an official who is likely a stranger to the student (regardless of whether that person is a confidential reporter), then many students will likely choose not to disclose at all.” Survivor Autonomy

    ?

    D* Rupturing Academic Relationships between Students and Faculty/Staff

    “If I knew that my advisor would be required to share details I disclosed about something so personal and harmful as sexual violence and discrimination, I would not disclose that information to my close mentor.

    That means that I would suffer in silence—potentially suffering from one of the many mental health outcomes that are linked with sexual violence and discrimination.” Survivor Autonomy

    ?

    E* Diminishing Academic Freedom

    “Though the proposed policy states the opposite (with no supporting evidence), the content of the policy itself is an attack on academic freedom. As it stands, the proposed policy places limits on what faculty and staff can teach and discuss, while simultaneously imposing a norm of silence with their students.” Survivor Autonomy

    ?

    F* Oppressing Minority Students

    “Through its cultural insensitivity, this policy disproportionately harms minorities, who are, by definition, the individuals who can be discriminated against based on being a member of a protected class. Furthermore, due to societal inequality, required reporting of sexual violence will not only stomp on the liberties of an individual as a survivor, but is also an oppressive move from a predominantly White university to force minority students to have their private information disclosed.” Survivor Autonomy

    ?

    G. Where is the evidence?

    Evidence has already been offered regarding the decades of research indicating that disclosing a survivor’s sexual violence experiences without their consent is harmful.

    At the May 11 Senate meeting, when asked to provide evidence for required reporting, the response was that there was a dissertation (from the College of Education) that provides evidence.

    There are a a few problems with this response.

    The first: such vague statements cannot be appropriately examined. The evidence itself–not just stating the existence of evidence–should be provided to the Senate.

    The second problem relates back to the proposed policy:

    Multiple undergraduate and graduate students have stated they felt violated that after receiving confidential services (from Crisis Intervention) for sexual violence, they were then contacted to participate in this research.

    The consistent message is that the UO should be trusted. And yet, even the confidential services–from the high profile breach in confidentiality at the UO Counseling Center in the Jane Doe case to students being contacted as ‘survivors’ for reasons other than their own well-being–elicit mistrust.

    The third problem through omission is that this response completely ignores the other half of the proposed policy, which has to do with discrimination by being a member of a protected class.

    What about minorities’ justified mistrust of UO as a predominantly White university?

    What about how that justified mistrust was strengthened for many by the fact that specific concerns for minorities–related to sexual violence and other forms of discrimination–were entirely excluded from the rationale for the proposed policy?

    The mistrust that some students have for the UO should be empathized with, respected, and addressed in other ways. Mandating trust is impossible; attempting to do so will not work.

    CONCLUSION
    As someone who was not involved in the committee’s process of putting together this proposal, I have still been able to learn invaluable things that likely would benefit many of us.

    Proposals that affect such a wide range of university members should go through preparation that includes:

    1. Embracing, respecting, and thoughtfully addressing dissenting viewpoints
    2. Actively consulting and collaborating with diverse constituents
    3. Soliciting and incorporating feedback from the very people who are affected the most by the proposed policy

    Perhaps we can all learn from this and do better in the future.

    In the meantime, passing a flawed policy in order to replace a flawed policy with the promise of returning to the former flawed policy to improve it amidst a myriad of other university issues tasked to the Senate is inefficient and unrealistic.

    Why not do this as close to right as possible?

    We can always improve upon policies, of course. However, beginning with a policy that is knowingly incomplete and flawed is not beneficial.

    The summer is coming. Most students and faculty will not be on campus.

    Why not take the time to craft a policy that would address these issues?

    In doing so, the resultant policy would likely have buy-in from diverse university members, thus actually making the policy effective.

    Thank you for your time.

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