Reports from UTSA's external reviews
Earlier this week, I received final reports from the two external reviews I initiated last year on UTSA’s Title IX compliance and campus sexual assault allegations. In the spirit of our continued commitment to engage our campus community on these important issues and further ongoing dialogue about how we address sexual misconduct on our campus, I am writing today to share the reports with all of you. They can be accessed via the following links:
As you may recall, I initiated these reviews to shine a bright light on our procedures for addressing all forms of sexual misconduct at UTSA as well as specific alleged incidents of sexual assault in our community. We launched the Baker Tilly review in February of 2018, and the Ice Miller investigation in November of 2018, immediately after we became aware of a series of flyers alleging sexual assaults. It was essential that we take full ownership of these matters—similar to the approach we used with the faculty-student consensual relationships cases we addressed last year—and we brought in outside counsel to ensure the reviews were as unbiased and frank as possible.
The reports contain some common threads that point us toward future areas of focus for UTSA, including:
- Developing trust so that survivors feel comfortable utilizing the university’s resources and processes to support them.
- Providing options for survivors in addition to—or in lieu of—reporting, depending on their emotional needs.
- Ensuring that reporting options and university resources for survivors of sexual assault/misconduct are clearly communicated.
- Clarifying processes, procedures and areas of responsibility to better support our survivors.
The Ice Miller report also references general harassment and assault allegations, some of which name specific groups such as the football team, an unidentified fraternity, and “Tech/Cyber” departments. In some cases, Ice Miller verified that these incidents are being addressed by our Office of Equal Opportunity Services (EOS), while others were unsubstantiated. All these references—even those without specific allegations—will be thoroughly investigated by EOS, as it is our firm responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our students. The content of Title IX investigations is protected from public release by FERPA and other state and federal laws.
We anticipated some of the reports’ findings, and have already made important changes:
- We instituted a sexual assault prevention training program connected to new student orientation, which is mandatory for all freshman and incoming students.
- We increased the frequency of compliance training for all faculty, staff and student workers so they now receive sexual misconduct prevention and reporting information on an annual basis.
- We launched an enhanced Safe Campus website as a comprehensive hub for information and resources on preventing and reporting sexual violence and misconduct.
- We created the Office of Student Advocacy, Violence Prevention and Empowerment and hired a professional with trauma expertise to provide another safe place for survivors to seek support.
- We joined the Culture of Respect Collective in January to help us improve our approach to addressing sexual violence within our community.
- We hired a new Director of Equal Opportunity Services and Title IX Coordinator who is already working to improve the expediency and effectiveness of the investigative process.
- We purchased Maxient software to begin tracking behavioral issues—including sexual assault and misconduct—in one centralized location.
- We brought in Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and founder of #SetTheExpectation campaign, to share her message with our student athletes and other faculty, staff and student groups.
- We are recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month throughout the month of April with a series of events and activities for the campus community.
Both reports will be used as guides to help us make further changes, and we look forward to updating you as these occur.
The efforts listed above represent the hard work of many individuals in our community. That said, I feel compelled to state a stark truth that is very much on my mind: there are assaults happening at UTSA that we do not know about, as many survivors—for a variety of perfectly understandable reasons—choose not to report.
Given that, the work we need to do to prevent sexual assaults is equally, if not more important to the work we need to do to better support our survivors. Culture change is imperative and will require us to take a hard look at the factors playing into sexual assaults, such as the role of alcohol and the need for a common understanding of consent.
As you recall, in February we launched an expansive President’s Initiative on Preventing Sexual Assault and Misconduct to focus on the deep roots of culture change. You will be hearing more from the steering group chair, Interim Dean of Students LT Robinson, as the initiative evolves. Partnerships and community engagement will be important to their efforts, and I encourage you to contact LT if you are interested in getting involved. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-458-4987.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that next week all students will receive an email asking them to participate in a survey on student safety and services. This study, led by Dr. Megan Augustyn in our College of Public Policy, is completely independent and unconnected to these external review reports or the events that initiated them. Dr. Augustyn’s research will provide valuable information regarding how to ensure students have access to the resources they need to be healthy and successful across a wide spectrum of online and offline safety situations, and I encourage students to participate.
In my mind, there is only one path before us – we must be relentless in our quest to continually improve as an institution. We are committed to ensuring that our zero-tolerance policy will have a stronger, more visible presence across campus as we work to prevent sexual assaults. Once again, I appreciate the students, faculty and staff who hold us accountable for making UTSA a better institution and a safe space for all. Your voices play an important role in helping us to find effective solutions, build trust and move forward together.