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April 29, 2016

University Releases Statistics on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct

On April 19, the Office of the Dean of Students released statistics on reports of harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct involving University of Chicago students. These statistics include all reports submitted between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.

This is the first publication of such comprehensive statistics. The statistics include the number of reports filed, the types of issues reported, the resolutions achieved, the number of official hearings held with the University-wide Student Disciplinary Committee (UWSDC), the allegations made and their outcomes, and the sanctions issued.

Of the 53 students to file complaints during this period, 41 were students in the College and 10 were graduate or professional students. Thirty of the 52 individuals accused of misconduct were College students and six were graduate or professional students.

Sixty-six incidents were reported in total, the majority of which were for sexual harassment (19), followed by sexual assault (15), sexual abuse (7), non-sexual harassment (7), and dating violence (6).

Students may submit reports or complaints to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Associate Dean of Students in the University for Disciplinary Affairs. These reports are addressed in a variety of ways, including informal resolutions as well as formal disciplinary hearings before the UWSDC. In this time frame, 103 resolutions were achieved. Thirty of these resolutions involved no-contact orders.

Michele Rasmussen, Dean of Students in the University, said it is important to note that the statistics reveal that many incidents reported in 2014–15 were resolved through measures other than formal disciplinary hearings.

“The University’s disciplinary process gives students the right to request that their complaint be heard by the UWSDC, and many students may assume that going through a hearing is the only option available to them if they want to formally report sexual misconduct. For some students, this may not be something they are ready to do or feel comfortable pursuing. The data in this report indicate that there are actually a broad range of choices available to a complainant, including requesting a disciplinary hearing,” Rasmussen said.

The UMatter website, which provides students with resources and information about gender-based misconduct and UChicago’s resolution process, lists the potential informal resolutions for harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct, which include no-contact directives, housing changes, schedule adjustments, restricted access, and mediation.

Second-year Meg Dowd, co-leader of the Phoenix Survivors Alliance (PSA), said the statistics revealed a lack of knowledge of or faith in the University’s practices and policies. Dowd believes that this is why many students do not report their cases to the University.

“The most distressing statistics to us are the very low number of reports that went to disciplinary committee, and the sanctions that resulted from those six disciplinary hearings. It would seem as if the University is relying on no-contact orders to deal with issues of sexual violence, due to the disproportionate number of issuances,” Dowd said.

Thirteen allegations of dating violence, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, harassment/discrimination, and other forms of misconduct were formally heard by the UWSDC. In seven of these allegations, the offender was found responsible.

Of the cases presented to the UWSDC, the Committee issued a variety of sanctions. Of the 17 issued sanctions, two were suspensions. There were no expulsions.

“It is ultimately the choice of the complainant to decide whether or not to pursue disciplinary action,” Dowd said. “But we believe that if the University invested more resources into providing education and transparency about these proceedings, more people who report would feel confident enough to go through with a hearing.”

According to Rasmussen, this was the first year that the University was able to gather comprehensive data on all reports and complaints of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct. Going forward, the University will be able to make year-to-year comparisons of the data.

In an interview with The Maroon, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman said the University used to publish annual reports with summaries of disciplinary hearings in a publication known as the University of Chicago Record, which contained official University reports, addresses, and policies. When that publication went out of print in 2009, the information on disciplinary hearings was not moved online. In May of 2015, CSL posted archives of those annual reports going back to 2007-2008. The new statistics released on April 19 include all reports concerning harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct, not just those that progressed to disciplinary hearings under the purview of the individual academic divisions and schools.

“Based on student feedback, we knew that there is strong interest in understanding the volume of reports that are submitted to the University, the nature of these reports in terms of the kinds of sexual misconduct students are experiencing, and how these matters are resolved. Our hope is that the annual release of this information will bring more clarity to University policy and processes as well as keep attention focused on the absolute need to address and prevent sexual misconduct in our community,” Rasmussen said.

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