UVU needs a victim’s advocate

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By McKhelyn Jones | Copy Editor

Kimberly Bojorquez | Editor-in-Chief

UVU Student Affairs has requested funding for a victim’s advocate through the university’s Planning, Budgeting, and Assessment process; however, the status of the request will not be revealed until April 2018. If approved, the position will be filled by July 1, 2018.

Student Affairs, the Equal Opportunity Office and Affirmative Action, UVU police, Student Health Services and the Orem City’s Victim’s Advocate Office are working together to request a grant from the Department of Justice’s Office for Violence Against Women. This is the fourth year in a row that the request has been made, according to the Dean of Students, Alexis Palmer.

The grants have been denied the past three years because government grants are concerned with the numbers. If the university’s reported amount of sexual misconducts cannot show a need, the request can be denied for that reason, among others, according to Palmer.

Title IX, Student Conduct and Student Health Services work together to ensure students receive the help they need, but there is only so much support they can offer.

“The victim’s advocate will provide direct services to victims of violent crime (not just sexual assault), coordinate the needs of students through the social services, serve as a liaison for victims, and guide them through the processes,” Palmer said. “Additionally, the advocate will serve as a confidential support person.”

The Title IX office’s role at UVU is not to impose punishments on either party, but to act as an impartial investigative body when students, faculty or staff report incidences of gender-based discrimination and sexual assault.

According to Laura Carlson, Title IX Coordinator, the office oversees University Policies 162 and 165. Title IX jurisdiction is the UVU campus and any person affiliated with it, but it does not have jurisdiction outside of the university.

There are two ways in which the Title IX office can resolve complaints: informally or through a formal investigation. An informal resolution is flexible and can involve mediation, separating the students through no contact orders or referring students to counseling or training.

According to the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter, formal investigations examine the evidence using what is called the “preponderance of evidence standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred).”

Once Title IX completes an investigation, the findings are handed to the Office of Student Conduct, which handles student-on-student misconduct and decides the punishment using the policy outlined in the Student Conduct Handbook along with Title IX’s findings. The severity of punishment depends on the crime, any prior policy infractions and previous punishments for similar infractions.

“We do comparison and benchmarking. Like, when a student violates a policy, I look at all the cases that are similar because we want to make sure we are fair, consistent and impartial,” said Maren Turnidge, director of student conduct and conflict resolution.

Punishments include everything from a warning and probation, to suspension or expulsion. Records from March 2017 show that the most common punishments were warnings, probation and loss of privileges; meanwhile, there were only two suspensions and one expulsion.

When a complaint is filed, Title IX acts as a neutral fact finder, following UVU processes and procedures to ensure that all parties have due process rights and are protected, according to Carlson. Interim measures, such as an interim suspension, may be utilized as a safety measure while a complaint is being investigated.

Even though survivors oftentimes want their assailant expelled, that outcome is not always possible because the other party has the right to fair representation.

“In [a survivor’s] mind, they would really like that student to not be here at all, but it hasn’t come to that point or it wasn’t that kind of situation,” Turnidge said. “So, a lot of times, that desire doesn’t get to happen even if they really really want it.”

A victim’s advocate would be there to help a student with these difficult conversations and help them through the reporting, investigation and disciplinary process.