In an attempt to better respond to acts of sexual abuse, violence and harassment on campus, Baylor University has hired external counsel to audit its response procedures. The university released a statement, saying the lawyers would “conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence.”
The University of Connecticut itself has been publicly accused of mishandling sexual crime allegations. In 2014, UConn agreed to a $1.3 million settlement for institutional mishandling of incidents of rape reported by five students, while avoiding an admittance of guilt. Given the gravity of responses to such crimes, the use of external agents could provide for an impartial assessment of UConn’s current response methods and lay the framework for suggested adjustments.
While UConn has improved infrastructure to handle claims regarding sexual crimes and rape, an outside and expert perspective is needed in order to streamline and enhance student accessibility to information as well as improve responses to all student claims and complaints.
Investigations into sexual assault and violence claims at any university are prone to accusations of bureaucratic mismanagement and public relations skewing. An outside probe of UConn’s response to these crimes and complaints will work toward reducing this potential conflict of interest, as long as the university uses entirely independent counsel. While UConn’s top priority should be reducing incidences of sexual assault, harassment and rape, addressing the efficacy of responses is also of paramount concern.
While Baylor has implemented this method for sexual crimes and complaints, UConn could also benefit from using an external audit for other areas of concern, such as allegations of hazing. While UConn has increased administrative infrastructure and pressure in order to limit hazing within campus organizations, an external audit would fully review the university’s protocols. This will help to ensure that university adopts the most effective procedures to provide the most impact and accessibility from their administrative position.
Implementing this method of oversight will enhance UConn’s efficacy in responding to sexual crimes and complaints as well as allegations of hazing. While Baylor is planning on having their hired lawyers report to its board of regents for consideration, UConn should commit to real reform based upon the findings. Baylor enacted this plan in response to particular incidents on campus, UConn has the opportunity to use outside counsel now as an effective method of reform, addressing all infringements upon quality of life.