UAF apologizes for mishandling of sexual assault cases
The interim chancellor of the University of Alaska Fairbanks apologized Tuesday for the school’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases.
“It is not acceptable and we’re deeply sorry for how mistakes affected our students and our families and their friends,” Mike Powers said Tuesday afternoon.
The University of Alaska is one of 60 schools under review and required to provide extensive information regarding sexual assaults and reports on campus for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Out of 42 sexual misconduct cases looked into at UAF from 2011 to 2014, five cases lacked proper disciplinary follow-up. Sexual misconduct can range from unwanted sexual comments to sexual assault. Law enforcement may have investigated the cases as well, Powers said.
“We expect that that lapse in applying the student discipline process will be a factor in the findings of the Office of Civil Rights,” said Powers, who was named interim chancellor this summer. “That may be one year from now, that may be 18 months, that may be 24 months from now.”
“Our police department has investigated the complaints it received and forwarded charges when warranted,” Powers wrote in an open letter to the public. “Our university staff members have offered victims services. But, for years, we failed to follow our own student discipline policies for the most serious violations of the student code of conduct: assault, burglary and rape. We investigated reports of rape, and often took informal action like removing the accused from dorms or campus. But, until recently, students were not being suspended or expelled for sexual assault, or for any major violation of our code of conduct.”
Powers says UAF has changed how it handles sexual misconduct. So far this year there has been one expulsion for sexual misconduct and two suspensions for sexual misconduct, according to UAF spokesperson Marmiam Grimes.
Jim Johnsen, UA system president, said an external review is planned. He says he anticipates releasing a summary to the public.
Powers’ apology comes as UAF is gearing up to host a screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” Tuesday evening. The film examines sexual assault on college campuses.
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