Let’s blame it on Gottfredson

The UO Board paid him $940K to leave, so let’s get our money’s worth.

The UO Senate spent a fair amount amount of time at its 4/20/2016 meeting discussing the proposed Responsible Reporting Policy for sexual assaults and sexual and racial harassment, brought to the Senate by its Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, chaired by Carol Stabile (Journalism). The committee minutes show that this proposal was thoroughly discussed, and carefully crafted.

This is the policy formerly known as Mandatory Reporting. The proposal is here. The gist is that faculty and most other UO employees must tell the UO administration whenever a student tells them about sexual and racial harassment and sexual violence:

Responsible Employees [i.e. faculty, OAs, staff and some others, with exceptions for crisis counselors etc.] who receive Credible Evidence of Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment or Sexual Harassment are required to promptly report that information as follows:

A. If the Credible Evidence relates to Sex Discrimination [which includes sexual assault] of a Student, Responsible Employees should report any information received to the Title IX Coordinator or to the Office of Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services. …

The Senate’s involvement came out of one of the many failures of Mike Gottfredson’s administration that were revealed after sports reporters foiled his administration’s attempts to keep the basketball rape allegations quite. Gottfredson had sent the university community a letter announcing that we were all mandatory reporters, and that AAEO had set up a silly web-based training on what this meant. But Gottfredson and his leadership team failed to follow through with an actual university policy – 4 years after the DoE’s Office of Civil Rights recommended one to VPFA Robin Holmes’s office.

The Senate stepped into the gap and put the Committee on GSBV on the job, with input from new GC Kevin Reed and some other new Schill hires. This policy is the result. Not everyone agrees with the idea that the definition of mandatory reporters should be this broad. (See below for Jennifer Freyd’s arguments against.) On the one hand students might be reluctant to talk to faculty if they know their names and the details will be reported to the administration and the perpetrator might learn that they’d talked, if their report results in action. On the other hand the policy cuts our famously incompetent AAEO director Penny Daugherty out of sexual assault matters, and mandatory reporting gives Schill’s new Title IX Coordinator specific information about serial perpetrators. Knowing this might make students more likely to report. I’m sure there are other arguments on both sides as well.

I’m no expert on this, but given all the uncertainty I think the CGSBV proposal falls well within the 95% confidence interval around the optimal policy, whatever that is, and it is certainly an improvement over the current Gottfredson non-policy policy.

But dissent and diversity of thought generally make things better, and as the video of Stabile’s presentation and the ensuing productive discussion shows, the UO Senate is the place for both. (Or, if you’re the administrator in the lower right corner, a good place to catch up on your sleep.)

The policy will likely have some revisions after this meeting, and come back for a vote at the May 5 meeting, or early this fall. Video of the Senate discussion here:

4/25/2015: Prof. Jennifer Freyd objects to mandatory reporting rules for sexual assaults. 

In the HuffPost, here. One of several strong arguments she makes against:

There is much debate in universities and schools about whether the law actually requires that faculty and teachers be so-called
“responsible employees” who necessarily must report disclosures — or if instead this is something universities are imposing beyond what is absolutely required.  My students and I have researched disclosure, trauma, betrayal, and institutional betrayal for decades. I have no doubt from conducting this research and reading the research of my colleagues, that one of the most important things we can do for survivors is put them in charge of their personal information.  If the law truly does not allow that, then we need to change the law.  Alternatively, if the law does allow it but universities are making policy that is more oppressive than necessary, we need to change that.  However we do it, we need to put control back into the hands of survivors.

So what to do about reporting policies?  Start with the rights of the individual to control their private information.  Prioritize our values: liberty, freedom, privacy, trust, student-faculty relationships, and equal access to education.   Begin any policy with a plan to help faculty find out what the student or survivor wants to have happen with his or her private information. If that person wants the information passed forward, the person receiving the report should pass it forward.  If that person wants privacy, the person receiving the report should provide privacy.  Understand too that the survivor wishes may change with time.  While a bell cannot be un-rung, a silent bell can be run the next week, the next month, if and when the survivor is ready.

In both ending sexual violence and protecting survivor or student control of personal information, we must promote liberty and autonomy and gender equality. We should begin with a fundamental tenet of respecting student and survivor autonomy and liberty – that the student/survivor gets to determine what happens with their private information and we go from there.


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5 Responses to Let’s blame it on Gottfredson

  1. Max Powers says:

    What your policy should do is funnel people to confidential advisors on campus, trained professionals who will allow the person to drive the bus. Those confidential advisors would not have reporting requirements. It is pretty simple. Allow faculty and staff who receive information and reports to point that person to the confidential advisors without having to give it to anyone else.

    Here you have a person whose free will has been taken from them, give it back to them and allow them to make the choice. Give them a place on campus to go for resources that will allow them to decide what comes next and will advise them of what all of the options look like without it becoming a full fledged investigation unless that is what they want.

  2. Inquiring Mind says:

    I have to think that the mandatory reporting, if not required by law, is more about the Universities’ “risk management” than about serving the needs of victims.

  3. cloudy says:

    Given the AAEO’s history, and the blunders under Gottfredson, this policy expects the campus community to put a lot of trust in the “impartiality” of the AAEO and other investigative arms of the administration. The policy also presupposes employees will be presented with unambiguous facts by students or other employees. In life, matters can be cloudy. The policy does not offer much guidance here: reading the “Credible Evidence” section of the policy, much is to be desired. That an employee can be disciplined for failing to report, given such vague criteria, is more worrisome.

  4. A UO Graduate Student says:

    I tried sending this to members of the Senate, but I do not think my emails went through.

    I would be very grateful if someone could submit this open letter to the Senate.


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