Letter on the UO’s mandatory reporting policy.

Letter from the Survivors of Sexual Violence Support Caucus on the UO’s mandatory reporting policy.

To the University of Oregon Senate,

The Survivors of Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF, AFT-3544) would like to reiterate its firm stance against the policy of required reporting. As stated in last week’s meeting, required reporting immediately affronts the agency of adult survivors in choosing to disclose their story on their own terms and in their own time. As has been made clear in recent trauma research, this affront not only impedes a survivor’s healing, but it is also re-traumatizing. Thus, required reporting is an institutional assault on a survivor’s human rights. The policy of required reporting places an undue burden onto employees, trapping them in a dilemma between ethical and institutional obligations: whether to be civilly disobedient in order to support a survivor in their time of healing, or whether to adhere to institutional code and procedure, potentially re-traumatizing a survivor. This particularly affects international graduate employees whose visa status depends on their employment. Moreover, due to the dynamics of trauma and our colonial history, the effects of such policies make them racist, heterosexist, ableist, and classist. Disclosures occur between trusted individuals in private and professional conversations; they often arise in clusters around employees whose work and/or identity mark them as part of a survivor’s potential healing group. The burden of disclosure is already compounded by race, sex, gender, disability, and class identities. Contrary to popular belief, required reporting adds to rather than lessens these burdens.

In the face of these known problems, no evidence has been supplied that required reporting tangibly benefits survivors in their healing or sense of justice, or that it is even effective in reducing the prevalence of sexual violence. This is unconscionable.

We encourage the Senate to reject required reporting as a mechanism for individual and communal healing from trauma. The Senate should take a survivor-centered approach in developing new policies. These policies should privilege survivor healing over concerns of legalistic liabilities, as our current justice system has proven so woefully inadequate in responding to trauma. Thus, the advisement of survivors, advocates, trauma researchers, and social justice scholars should be directly sought out and especially honored in the development of such policies, in addition to union voices. Graduate employees, who are ambiguously classed as both students and workers, have particularly high stakes in these policies and should also be explicitly included in their development. To our knowledge, this has not been the methodology used in developing this policy. Moreover, we are deeply concerned that the email voting procedure of the Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence had the consequence of excluding critical student and faculty voices.

There are many options besides and beyond required reporting available: investment in Callisto software; mandatory, paid, scholarship-based disclosure trainings for all employees; relevant and scholarship-based mandatory ethics classes on consent, gender, and coloniality; survivor-centered and directed institutional procedure at all levels, which may include requiring employees to report upon explicit consent from the survivor. Institutional accountability mechanisms should also be developed for Chairs of Departments, the Counseling Center, the Director of Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services, the Dean of Students, the Title IX Coordinator, the Vice President of Student Affairs, the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, the Provost, and the President.

There is flexibility in the current federal “Dear Colleague” guidance from the Office of Civil Rights, and we encourage the Senate to take on a national leadership role advocating for survivor-centered education policies at this institution and across the United States.

Moreover, collapsing the immense problem of campus sexual violence with the enormous problem of prohibited discrimination into one policy is simply ill advised. While these problems are intensely related, more due care needs to be taken in creating policies addressing rape; sexual harassment; racial discrimination; gender, trans and genderqueer discrimination; and discriminations based on ability, HIV- status, and veteran status, etc.

We look forward to working together to continue to make this campus as safe and accessible for everyone, especially survivors of sexual violence and prohibited discrimination.

In solidarity,

The Survivors of Sexual Violence Support Caucus of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF, AFT-3544)