Message regarding campus consensual relationships
As a nation we are grappling with the devastating reality that sexual harassment and misconduct are all too common in our society.
I adamantly believe that transparency on this topic is needed now more than ever. If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it’s that keeping these occurrences quiet can quickly lead to inadvertent tolerance. We must be willing to name these incidents when they happen in our communities, then denounce them openly and clearly.
This year at UTSA we have dealt with three incidents of faculty allegedly engaging in consensual relationships with students. I want to be upfront about the fact that these incidents occurred on our campus, and tell you about the actions we are taking.
As you are all aware, UTSA has a clear policy regarding consensual relationships between supervisors and supervisees. This includes relationships between students and faculty members who have direct or indirect supervision over the student. The policy is fundamental to avoiding any real or perceived conflicts of interest, power differentials and potential emotional distress for all those involved. It also reinforces our zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct of any kind.
The three faculty-student consensual relationship cases we discovered this year are undergoing thorough investigations by the Office of Equal Opportunity Services in concert with UT System, and consequential administrative actions are taking place in accordance with our policy. As I stated back in February, sexual misconduct will not be tolerated at UTSA.
These occurrences indicate to me that we still have much work to do to instill a community ethos of zero-tolerance around issues of sexual harassment and misconduct. I hold this community to the very highest standard in this regard. The Faculty Senate’s recent resolution regarding issues of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination further emphasizes the critical need for attention within our community.
Further, in response to incidents at Michigan State University and in support of the CLASE effort, Chancellor McRaven encouraged all UT System presidents to do an institutional review of sexual misconduct processes and procedures. I am bringing in an outside consultant to look at all aspects of our Title IX programs, including the need for best practices and integration with our new Office of Student Advocacy, Violence Prevention and Empowerment launched as a result of our own task force work.
In preparation for this upcoming external review, some management changes have been implemented in the Office of Equal Opportunity Services. Maria Perez is stepping into the role of interim director of EOS & Title IX Coordinator. After the external review, a national search will be conducted to hire a new director.
In addition, I have asked Jessica Muniz, our new director of Student Advocacy, Violence Prevention and Empowerment, to design a robust training program for faculty that dives deeply into sexual misconduct prevention. More information about the training will be made available this fall.
We must work together to prevent instances of harassment and misconduct on campus. I can’t overstate the importance of taking action if you have concerns or witness any inappropriate activities. Report these matters to your supervisor, the Office of Equal Opportunity Services, or the anonymous hotline.
Finally, let me reiterate my trust in all of you as protectors and advocates for our students. As faculty and staff of this learning community, we have a collective responsibility to do everything we can to ensure their wellbeing and safety.