Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Student Story Board: UAA's Resident Assistants

Student Storyboard is a volunteer program on KRUA 88.1 FM, UAA’s student radio station. Host is Kathleen McCoy. This week's student guests are three RA’s from student housing. Ashleigh Stephans, Natalie Tierney and Victoria Goss..

Guests and hosts discussed campus resources available for students including the Care Team, Safe Zone and student forums organized around the Title IX visit to campus by the Office for Civil Rights on Oct. 8-9. Mentions of the forum dates/times/places can be heard at 7:30 and again at 13:08.

From left to right, UAA Resident Assistants: Hayleigh Stephens, Natalie Tierney and Victoria Goss.

This program was recorded Oct. 3, 2014.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Office for Civil Rights visits UAA Oct. 8–9

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education is coming to UAA Oct. 8–9 to talk about sexual harassment and sexual violence. OCR is conducting a proactive compliance review of the University of Alaska system under Title IX of the Patsy T. Mink Education Opportunity Act of 1972. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded universities. OCR will be on the Anchorage campus on Wednesday, Oct. 8, and Thursday, Oct. 9, to speak with students, staff and community members about sexual harassment and sexual violence. Students are encouraged to attend student focus groups and open office hours with OCR.

Free pizza and refreshments will be available at all focus groups.

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014

Focus Group: Male Athletes
11 a.m.–12 p.m.

Alaska Airlines Center, Olson Conference Room (1st floor)

Focus Group: Female Athletes

11 a.m.–12 p.m.

Alaska Airlines Center, Dresser Family Conference Room (2nd floor)

Open Office Hours

2:15–3:45 p.m.

Student Union, Lyla Richards Conference Room

Open Office Hours

3–3:45 p.m.

Student Union, Leadership Lab

Focus Group: Female Students, including survivors of sexual assault, campus activists, international students and sorority members
4–5 p.m.

Student Union, Lyla Richards Conference Room

Focus Group: Male Students, including survivors of sexual assault, campus activists, international students and fraternity members
4–5 p.m.

Student Union, Leadership Lab

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014

Focus Group: Male Alaska Native Students
12–1 p.m.

Gorsuch Commons, Room 106

Focus Group: Female Alaska Native Students

12–1 p.m.

Gorsuch Commons, Canary Room

Open Office Hours

2–3:45 p.m.
Student Union, Lyla Richards Conference Room

Open Office Hours
3–5 p.m.
Student Union, Leadership Lab

Focus Group: Undergraduate and Graduate LGBTQ Students
4–5 p.m.

Student Union, Lyla Richards Conference Room

Students may also contact OCR directly to set up private in-person appointments or telephone conversations by contacting the following staff. These staff members are available before and after the on-site visit as well.

Shirley Oliver, Senior Equal Opportunity Specialist

(206) 607-1633, shirley.oliver@ed.gov

Amy Klosterman, Attorney
(206) 607-1622, amy.klosterman@ed.gov

Cathy Fawley, Attorney
(206) 607-1609, catherine.fawley@ed.gov

If you have questions about the OCR site visit, please contact the OCR staff listed above. For persons in need of ADA accommodations, please contact the UAA Office of Campus Diversity and Compliance at (907) 786-4680. They will coordinate with Disability Support Services in making those arrangements.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sexual harassment and sexual assault at UAA: Let's Talk!

Dear UAA Community,

Many of you have heard the national statistics on sexual violence rates in Alaska, and it’s fair to say they are alarming. The Alaska rape rate alone is nearly three times the national average. Though it’s difficult to talk about, it’s absolutely critical we continue to bring the issues of sexual violence and sexual harassment to the forefront of our daily lives, particularly on a university campus. During the years 2011-14, UAA had 139 sexual harassment and/or sexual assault complaints, including those made at our community campuses. Most people are aware of Title IX as it relates to gender equity in sports, but it is much broader than that. Title IX also addresses issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as universities.

In May, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) placed the entire University of Alaska (UA) system on the list of colleges and universities that would undergo a Title IX compliance review. This review includes on-site visits by representatives from the OCR on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 at UAA. During this site visit, OCR will conduct interviews and hold focus groups to learn more about how UAA handles allegations and complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence involving students. We take this work very seriously. I’d personally like to encourage students to attend one of the focus groups or one of the open office hours to discuss issues of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment. If you’d like to meet one on one with an OCR representative, that option is also available. Included at the end of this email is the most recent schedule for the OCR’s campus visit.

Marva Watson, UAA’s Title IX Coordinator, and Dr. Dewain Lee, UAA’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator, have been working closely with OCR staff on the upcoming visit. In addition, UAA’s two Title IX investigators, Stephanie Whaley and Jerry Trew, have been providing training to our faculty and staff over the past several months. A significant number of employees also completed Title IX training at the all of UAA’s campuses during AY2013-14. Students are receiving Title IX training as part of orientation. These four individuals are particularly important to recognize as go-to staff on Title IX issues on campus. You can learn more about our Title IX work at www.uaa.alaska.edu/deanofstudents/title-ix.cfm or greenandgold.uaa.alaska.edu/?p=26027.

In addition to the OCR campus visit, UA will conduct a comprehensive “climate survey” on sexual assault and harassment to gauge the local impacts of the issue; to identify gaps in reporting, support or training; and to understand more fully what our campus climates are like regarding Title IX issues and where we must improve. The survey will help guide efforts to proactively reach out to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. People participating in the survey must be aware that questions are explicit, and could be upsetting to some.

The survey will be distributed to all UA employees and a representative sample of our student population. Participation in the survey will be voluntary, confidential and anonymous, with only aggregate results released. The goal of the survey is to improve safety on all UA campuses and ensure that sexual harassment and violence incidents are prevented to the greatest extent they can be, and that when incidents do occur, they are dealt with properly.

UAA has fully cooperated with the OCR on this review. It’s always our goal to promote a culture of respect, safety and care on our campus. The in-depth review conducted by the OCR will help us better understand our campus environment, will provide areas for growth and improvement, and will make us an even better institution in how we respond to and provide support for victims of sexual violence and harassment. Please consider doing your part by participating in one of the several focus groups, or by attending one of the open office hours with representatives from the OCR.

Best regards,

Chancellor Tom Case

Monday, September 22, 2014

With national and local campaigns focusing on raising awareness and preventing sexual assault, many student activists across the country are turning to social media to engage their campus communities in public discussions. National Public Radio's Morning Edition interviewed student activists at Georgetown University. Listen to their story here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

No More Silence in the Dark: A Panel Discussion on Reducing Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Alaska

From the UAA Justice Center Blog

Event coordinators and panelists smile for a photo at the 'No More Silence in the Dark' event.

On March 19, 2014, the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Omega Xi chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national criminal justice honor society, hosted “No More Silence in the Dark.” The event was part of National Criminal Justice Month 2014 and “UAA Says No More” week, and drew a crowd of 150 students, faculty, staff and members of the community to the UAA/APU Consortium Library. Listen to the panel discussion on the UAA Justice Center blog here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault at UAA

1. To whom should I report that I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted?
Sexual harassment and acts of sexual violence should be reported to the Title IX coordinators or university police.

2. I’ve already gone to the police, so why do I need to go to the Title IX coordinator?

Sexual harassment and sexual violence are potential crimes, but they are also violations of Title IX and UAA policy. Sometimes, specific conduct may not constitute a crime, but may be a violation of Title IX and UAA policy. UAA is committed to addressing and preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence, regardless of whether such activity constitutes a crime.

3. If I reported being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted to the Title IX team, do I still need to go to the police?
If you believe you have been sexually assaulted or are a victim of any other crime, you should contact the university police.

4. Will my complaint remain confidential?
The privacy of the parties is a priority to UAA. However, sometimes, limited information must be disclosed in order to fully investigate a complaint or protect the campus community. If you are concerned about confidentiality, discuss this issue with the Title IX coordinator.

5. What if I want to remain anonymous?
Your confidentiality will be protected to the maximum extent possible, but anonymity may hinder an investigation into your complaint.

6. Do I have to identify the alleged perpetrator?
Yes. In order to conduct a thorough investigation, the alleged perpetrator must be identified.

7. I’m concerned that reporting might make matters worse. Should I still file a complaint?
Yes. If you have concern for your safety, UAA can provide escort services and take other steps to assist you. In addition, UAA has a strong anti-retaliation policy that is aggressively enforced if a complainant or a witness is retaliated against for participating in a Title IX investigation.

8. My friend told me he or she was assaulted. What can I do to help?
Be supportive—listen to what she or he has to say and then encourage your friend to report the incident to the police or to the Title IX coordinator. You should also consider reporting the incident yourself. You may suggest they contact UAA’s student counseling services.

9. Do I have to report to UAA? Is there someone outside the university I can report to?

You may also report to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. However, UAA is committed to addressing and preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence. UAA is best able to do that when it is made aware of possible violations.

Monday, August 25, 2014

UAA students' work to fight domestic violence, sexual assault attracts JBER attention

When journalist Brooke Gladstone of National Public Radio’s “On the Media” was in town for a public talk in late February, she told the Wendy Williamson audience that about 80 percent of American voters have “checked out.”
 Simona Gerdts and Kristen Speyerer helped launch 'UAA Says No More.            Phillip Hall/University of Alaska Anchorage
She referred to the book “Changing Minds or Changing Channels,” which contends, “Essentially huge numbers of voters are opting out of the conversation entirely, because they think they have better things to do.”

Considering the complex decisions facing Alaska, and the struggles of many Alaskans, abandonment feels dangerous. I know Gladstone spoke in national numbers but hey, what was the voter turnout in Anchorage’s last election? Just 28 percent.

That check-out rate nagged me. It was on my mind when I sat down with Simona Gerdts and Kristen Speyerer, two UAA spring graduates with fresh degrees in justice.

Last semester, these two and a handful of others launched a rebuttal to domestic violence and sexual assault at UAA, called “UAA Says NO MORE.” It snowballed from:
Ultimately, Gerdts and Speyerer helped forge a working relationship between UAA and its Justice Center and the United States Army Alaska over domestic violence and sexual assault issues.
Captain Danyelle Kimp , center, nominated Gerdts and Speyerer for a Victims for Justice Media award. (Photo courtesy of Simona Gerdts)
Why? Because “We have the same demographic,” said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, U.S. Army Alaska spokesman. “We’re 70-80 percent male, ages 18-25. It makes sense to look and find commonalities between campus and military installations.”

Another military leader from the U.S. Air Force, Command Chief Master Sergeant Jose A. Barraza, learned of their efforts and came over to UAA to attend their information panel. Barraza gives similar informational sessions in the military and saw his presence at UAA as a way to support the work off-base.

“I wanted to come out and support them. We’re all in this together, the military and the community. I wanted to show that,” he said.

We know Alaska statistics are the worst in the nation. Out of every 100 Alaska women, 59 have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault or both.

From pain to involvement

But this column isn’t about those numbers, alarming as they are. What I wanted to know is: How and why does a passive bystander decide to step up and do something? How did two busy seniors switch from a modest donation drive to a campus movement that eventually reached into JBER? Is there a lesson here for the “checked-out”?

Kristen Speyerer, who floundered and dropped out of UAA in 2004, went to work at FedEx for 10 years, climbing the corporate ladder. “But that wasn’t what I really wanted to do,” she says. In 2011, she tried out a paralegal class at UAA and learned about an array of social problems, including domestic violence and sexual assault. “People close to me have had that experience,” she said. “It resonated.”

For Simona Gerdts, the story is longer and more painful. As a toddler in Florida, she watched her father beat her mother, including the dark day her mother grabbed her and her brothers’ hands and fled forever. Gerdts was 5.
'UAA Says No More' is supported by the national movement.    
She resented growing up poor. She lionized her distant father and impugned her mother for the family’s poverty. At 15, she got pregnant but kept her baby and partner, Alan. Together they graduated from high school a year early and married. Alan joined the Air Force, and, along with a second son, Aydan, the family eventually reported for duty in Alaska. As Aydan turned 5, Gerdts decided to study for a paralegal certificate at UAA.

As in Speyerer’s case, justice classes, research and professors opened her eyes.

“If you would have asked me a year ago if I see myself in an advocacy role, I would be, ‘What are you talking about?’ But then we started this research project. We took that number (60 percent experience rate for Alaska women). That is six out of every 10 women you walk by, every day. You can put names and faces to it. It’s really hard not to want to stop it.”
The UAA Says No More campaign donated high heels to the Port Heiden "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes." (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Anderson)
So they went to work. Perhaps most inspiring is the story of a UAA journalism student, Sarah Anderson, who drew support from UAA’s NO MORE movement to return to the village of Port Heiden where she’d been raped years earlier. She told her story in public there, and even led a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” with men and boys in the village, complete with 10 sets of high heels donated by UAA’s NO MORE. Of course, the pictures are on Facebook.

Next up: marital rape

Gerdts and Speyerer, degrees in hand, aren’t done. Next up? Working to remove an Alaska statute that, in certain circumstances, offers a defense in the case of marital rape.

“It’s our goal,” Speyerer said, “even if we have to co-author the bill.”

What does it take to reach the “checked-out”? Information. Commitment. Pain.

A version of this story by Kathleen McCoy appeared in the Anchorage Daily News, now the Alaska Dispatch News, on Sunday, May 25.