Phoenix Survivors Alliance (PSA) is circulating a petition that demands changes to the University’s “no-contact orders” (NCOs), which are often issued between students in a sexual assault investigation. As of Thursday evening, the petition had 440 signatures.
PSA is an advocacy and support RSO for students who are survivors of sexual violence. On January 20, third-year Ryn Seidewitz and second-year Olamide Ogunbambo wrote a Letter to the Editor in The Maroon outlining some of PSA’s issues with the University’s handling of NCOs.
In an interview with The Maroon, Seidewitz, co-president of PSA, said that PSA wrote the petition as a group after four separate people came forward saying that the University had given them NCOs that were vague and could be interpreted in different ways that were potentially harmful to the complainant. Some said that their NCOs allowed the respondent and complainant to be in proximity with each other.
The petition asks that the University clearly state the NCO policies on their website, officially provide for different types of NCOs, recognize a physical proximity provision, put more of the onus on the respondent to reduce proximity to the complainant, and remove respondents from classes that they are in with the complainant.
According to Seidewitz, current NCOs issued by the University are “bilateral,” or reciprocal, meaning that neither the respondent nor complainant can communicate in any way with the other. The petition asks for a “unilateral” option, which would allow the complainant to communicate to the respondent that they should leave the vicinity.
Seidewitz claims that physical proximity is not frequently or uniformly used in current NCOs. The petition asks that the University instate a policy that stipulates when respondents should remove themselves from a University building or room if the complainant is there.
Seidewitz says that NCOs are often given verbally, with little recourse if they are violated. She also said that NCO protocols are not formalized. The petition is not asking for the University to mandate these unilateral contact directives, according to Seidewitz, but instead have them formalized as a potential recourse and issued on a case-by-case basis.
“The University actually does a lot of [these practices]. They do it in a spotty way and don’t put it in writing. We want them to formally acknowledge them and write them down,” Seidewitz said.
“The University is committed to working closely with students on issues related to sexual misconduct, including on concerns like these. Students first met with [Deputy Title IX Coordinator] Shea Wolfe and [Associate Dean of Students in the University for Disciplinary Affairs] Jeremy Inabinet on these issues in early December, shortly after the students contacted them,” University spokesperson Jeremy Manier wrote. Manier informed *The Maroon* that Wolfe and Inabinet are scheduled to meet with students on Friday to discuss the next steps.
On the University’s Title IX website, there is no mention of NCOs. However, the student manual does mention them at least 10 times in reference to sexual misconduct, harassment, and other causes for investigation.
“‘Interim measures’ are steps taken to ensure the safety of the complainant and/or University community before the final outcome of any investigation. Such measures may include changes to academic and extracurricular activities, adjustments to living, transportation, dining, and working arrangements, issuing and enforcing no-contact orders, and honoring an order of protection or no-contact order entered by a State civil or criminal court,” states the 2016–2017 student manual. The manual also states that NCOs can be modified before, during, and after an investigation.
The student manual also stipulates that NCOs are often issued to protect confidentiality and limit opportunities for retaliation during investigations.
“…The University has the authority to issue a no-contact directive pursuant to which the individuals notified are forbidden from having contact, directly or indirectly, personally or through others, and through any medium (including but not limited to social media), with others specified in the directive. Violation of a no-contact directive may result in a disciplinary proceeding and the imposition of sanctions,” reads the student manual.
The petition will be presented to Wolfe in a meeting on Friday. Seidewitz said that the group was also in talks to meet with Provost Daniel Diermeier to present him with the petition, but that a date has not been set. The group hopes to collect 1,000 signatures before presenting Diermeier with the petition.
Correction on Jan. 27, 2017, 10:26 a.m. CST:
A sentence was added to clarify that not all four individuals that approached PSA with concerns about their NCOs had issues with proximity.