Utah State University recently approved an interim policy on sexual misconduct. For our university, this represents years of work to improve how we prevent and respond to sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sex-based stalking, and relationship violence.
This new policy clarifies expectations for conduct for everyone in our university community, provides greater autonomy and more options for those who experience sexual misconduct, and lays out clear consequences for those whose conduct violates policy. We have also created more options for individuals who experience misconduct, in addition to the supportive measures or a formal complaint and investigation that were already in place.
We hope these individuals will feel more comfortable coming forward, knowing they will receive support as they navigate a path that feels right to them. We also acknowledge that even with this new policy, the Title IX process, governed by state and federal laws (including recent changes to Title IX regulations), is by its very nature difficult to go through.
Both of us came to USU in fall 2018, after several sexual assaults, including those perpetrated by Jason Relopez and Torrey Green. Survivors’ stories, along with an internal review and a Department of Justice Title IX compliance review, revealed how much work there was to do.
In order to address these shortcomings, to redress past grievances, and in an effort to promote and maintain a safe educational environment, USU has made numerous system-wide changes to improve prevention efforts and response services, including changes to policies and procedures.
Since 2017, the Office of Equity staff has tripled, with the addition of essential skills in prevention, investigation, and supportive measures. To date, 28,664 students have gone through sexual misconduct prevention training, which has been mandatory for all new students since fall 2017. We have also created a role specifically to coordinate support for those who experience sexual misconduct.
But while we are encouraged by the progress our campus community has made, as an institution, we recognize that there is still more work to do.
For those who may not have received the support and response they should have, USU expresses its sincere apology. All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to those survivors who courageously shared their own stories so we could do better for our whole community. Many of these individuals have continued to stay engaged with the university as members of our advisory committee, providing unique feedback on prevention efforts and response protocols. Their willingness to speak out ensures a better system for future students.
Sexual misconduct has impacts far beyond those who experience it directly. It challenges the mission of our university and threatens the futures and careers of more than just the survivors. Our role is to prevent that from happening, and we take this responsibility seriously.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual misconduct, you can contact the Office of Equity at 435-797-1266 or file a report online at equity.usu.edu to obtain more information regarding your options, resources and support.
Hilary Renshaw, USU Title IX Coordinator
Alison Adams-Perlac, Executive Director, Office of Equity