Revisions to federal education policy changed how SF State addresses incidents of sexual assault beginning this semester, upholding a nationwide push for gender equity in college communities.
Under the policy, incoming students at universities must complete an online training program on the issue of sexual assault. Faculty and staff must be retrained annually and are required to report any allegations of sexual harassment or assault to a designated official—regardless of if the information is told in confidence.
Title IX is part of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and mandates every educational institution that receives federal funding to promote gender equity in its programs. The changes to the federal policy, which were signed into law in March, categorizes the issue of sexual assault as sex-based discrimination.
“The law that President Obama signed into effect more clearly linked the presence of sexual violence on campus as a form of gender and sex based discrimination,” said Title IX Coordinator Luoluo Hong. “I think the federal legislation was the result of increasing attention to sexual assault on campuses all over the country.”
According to the Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study conducted by the National Institute of Justice in 2005-2007, 19 percent of undergraduate women reported being a victim of attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
“I honestly think at most universities the policies around sexual harassment and sexual assault are problematic,” said Janelle White, director of San Francisco Women Against Rape and SF State women gender studies lecturer. “It’s always been a very difficult issue for campus administration to get a hold of. I guess it can be an added push for universities who haven’t thought about sexual assault as an issue.”
The University Police Department (UPD) reported 21 incidents of sexual assault between 2010 and 2012 in addition to 14 incidents reported by the downtown campus, according to the 2013 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report. UPD is currently investigating an alleged rape, which was reported on campus last week.
According to Hong, the Title IX Office considers several factors when determining consequences for sexual assault perpetrators including the severity of the incident, the number of times the incident has occurred, and the presence of drugs and alcohol.
“We are not a court of law, we are an educational institution,” Hong said, who also serves as vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment. “We are not afraid to take this seriously. If we believe an expulsion is necessary, we will take that action.”
Sexual assault victims can turn to different outlets on campus including The SAFE (Sexual Abuse Free Environment) Place, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center and the UPD. While Title IX requires UPDto disclose the identity of the accused perpetrator and the details of the incident to its office, the SAFE Place gives the survivor full control over what happens with the report.
“I don’t report anything to anyone,” SAFE Place Coordinator Laurene Dominguez said. “My role is to give the students their rights. If they want to report I tell them where to report, what the process is for reporting. I educate people a lot on the Title IX process.”
Forty members of the SF State community went to The SAFE Place in 2012 for counseling and other resources to deal with violent sexual experiences, according to the 2013 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report.
Hong held an educational Title IX session last Saturday for students at the Leadership Symposium, an event open to all SF State students.
“The intent is to create a higher education institution that is accessible and safe and well for everyone regardless of their gender identity or their sexual orientation—that everyone has the right to be safe,” Hong told students at the session.
There has been no formal survey, beyond reported incidents, conducted to quantify sexual assaults at SF State. According to Hong, the first survey will take place this year.