Editorial: UConn needs to protect against sexual assault, regardless of Title IX overhaul

The report, which collected assaults reported to both the UConn Police Department and the Office of Diversity and Equity, housed in the building seen above, listed UConn, tied with Brown University, as having the most sexual assaults of any college campuses in 2014. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

On Sept. 7, 2017 the Department of Education announced they would begin to overhaul the current systems used to report campus sexual misconduct and implement changes based on public comments. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss explained the decision was necessary because previous Title IX policy unfairly targeted the accused and ruined their lives without necessarily proving they were the perpetrator.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits any form of discrimination based on student or employee gender. The protections prohibit sexual assault, harassment and dating violence.          

Since the announcement was made, UConn’s Title IX coordinator Elizabeth Conklin released a statement reminding students that UConn has made “great strides over the past several years to enhance both our prevention and response measures across all of our campuses.” The statement also reminded students of the various resources available to victims and the current process.

People gather to protest proposed changes to Title IX before a speech by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at George Mason University Arlington, Va., campus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The university’s response was very appropriate, especially considering UConn’s track record in regards to sexual assault reporting.  A report by the Washington Post found that, in 2014, UConn was tied nationally with Brown University in the number of sexual assaults reported on campus. Coverage of this study by the Daily Campus found that, while more cases are being reported it, it may have little to do the with victims feeling more comfortable with the university and more to do with a mandatory reporting program implemented by the university.

UConn has a policy that requires almost all of the school’s employees to report claims of sexual assault to the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE). Few students, however, are aware that telling anyone who is a UConn employee about their assault will result in a report to the university. Additionally, reports to ODE are first subject to an internal investigation that does not involve campus police or get assigned a case number. Of the 43 reported sexual assault cases at UConn in 2014, 17 were brought directly to police either by a victim or a friend while the other 26 were brought to ODE.

In the wake of such recent allegations, it is important that UConn does everything in it’s power to protect current students from Title IX violations, regardless of what happens within the Department of Education.