Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access releases data that shows sanctions placed on students who violate the University's sexual harassment policy. It is the Office of Student Affairs.
KU student government said Wednesday the University of Kansas' policies and procedures fall short when it comes to sexual assault, given a consistent rise in reports. So far, KU administration hasn't directly addressed these concerns.
At last week’s full Senate meeting, Student Senate asked Chancellor Douglas Girod to reopen a task force that evaluates the efficiency and transparency on cases of sexual violence after a survey showed more than a quarter of KU undergraduate women said they’d been sexually assaulted during their time in college. Administrators have been nonvocal in response to the resolution.
According to a survey conducted by the Association of American Universities released in October, 26% of undergraduate women at the University said they were sexually assaulted.
“When the numbers came out, a lot of people were shocked because there isn’t a lot of cognizance around this issue,” said Mercedeh Tavacoli, Senate’s director of diversity and equity.
A survey conducted by the Association of American Universities released Tuesday reveals that 26% of undergraduate women at the University of Kansas say they have experienced sexual assault in college.
University spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson provided the following statement in an email with the Kansan.
“As you reported previously, a chancellor’s task force has already examined how the University prevents and responds to sexual assaults. The group completed its work ... and those efforts are ongoing and evolving today.”
Barcomb-Peterson pointed to the creation of trauma-informed interview spaces at the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access as well as the KU Public Safety Office, which were both funded by student government, and the launch of gender-based violence prevention seminars through the University's Institute for Leadership Studies.
The Kansan's attempt to clarify the University’s specific position on the resolution was not returned by the time of publication.
“Regarding the release of data, it's important to note that following one of the task force recommendations, KU continues to publish the results of disciplinary actions related to sexual violence,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “The University does fulfill other requests for de-identifiable information as required by law."
The Office of Student Affairs releases data that shows sanctions placed on students for violating the University’s sexual harassment policy. However, data from 2017 and 2018 was not released until the Kansan requested the data from Barcomb-Peterson in April 2019.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham did not respond to questions regarding the resolution. Durham has oversight on every entity on campus that investigates sexual violence apart from the Public Safety Office.
Former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little opened an 11-person task force that evaluated the University’s policy and procedures on sexual violence in September 2014.
On Wednesday night, the Student Senate Student Rights Committee passed a resolution to ask Chancellor Girod to create a sexual assault prevention task-force after an increase in sexual assault on campus.
It opened after the University gained national criticism in response to a Huffington Post story that described the experience of an anonymous University student who alleged she was raped. The man she said raped her admitted to police he kept having sex with her after she kept saying “no.” The University originally considered giving the man, who was also a student, community service as a punishment. But instead, administrators thought the action was considered “too punitive.”
The task force released a final report in April 2015 with 27 recommendations to strengthen and refine policies of sexual assault.
Gray-Little’s task force resulted in the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. It also required sexual harassment training for students.
Student Body President Tiara Floyd said during the Full Senate meeting she will directly ask Girod in a private meeting on Dec. 12 about the resolution.
Grant Daily, Student Senate’s government relations director and author of the resolution, said he believes the University to be “one of the best schools in the nations in terms of a student body who truly understands at the core what a definition is of sexual assault and violence.” However, he said the University still falls short.
“Where we begin to falter in my opinion is when it comes on the flip side of that — it’s the response that the University takes. It is the reporting process. It is the followup process. It’s the process of trying to find someone on campus that you feel comfortable enough to report to,” he said.
This story will be updated if and when the University responds.