University Affairs

USU Looking Closely at Issue of Sexual Assault

UPDATE – July 28, 2016

Utah State University has expanded its ongoing comprehensive review of how it handles sexual assault cases to include a thorough examination of the events reported recently in the Salt Lake Tribune. The inquiry already has started and will be completed as quickly as possible. It will be led by our in-house legal counsel, and any recommendations will be shared widely.

As part of this inquiry, the university will look closely at a number of issues including: communication between the various offices that deal with sexual assault, current training for mandatory reporters, how USU handles anonymous or confidential reports of sexual assault and how the university addresses allegations of sexual assault when witnesses choose not to file a complaint or choose not to pursue a university investigation.

USU investigates allegations of sexual assault and makes determinations based upon the information we receive. The university simply cannot release information about the scope of an investigation, any steps we might have taken, the amount of information we received, or even the fact that we may or may not have received a formal complaint from any individual. That information is confidential, protected student information. To be clear, federal privacy laws are not in place to protect the university’s privacy or to protect the privacy of anyone accused of sexual assault; they are in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of any student who reports a sexual assault or who seeks assistance for sexual assault.

As part of our ongoing review effort, this spring USU strengthened its investigation and appeal processes for sexual assault complaints, including providing more detailed information in the policy about where and how to file a complaint. The university will continue to look for additional ways to improve our processes and resources, and we will look closely at the recommendations and make any necessary changes.

July 22, 2016

Utah State University deeply cares about the safety and well-being of our students. The issue of sexual assault and other unwelcome sexual conduct is a matter of great concern to USU and all other colleges and universities. We are looking closely at our policies and support services and will make any changes that will ensure the well-being of our students.

USU encourages students who have experienced any form of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, to talk to somebody about what happened. We are concerned that students get the support and assistance they need. As an institution we provide distinct options for students to discuss their experiences: confidential, counseling-based support services; USU faculty, staff and employees who can assist students; and information about reporting to law enforcement. If a victim chooses to contact law enforcement, we offer to help them with that process.

Counseling-Based Services that are Confidential

USU’s counseling-based support services include the Sexual Assault & Anti-Violence Information Office (SAAVI) and USU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). These services are both free to students.

Information shared with these offices is confidential, and speaking with these offices will not trigger a USU investigation into an incident against the victim’s wishes. More information about these resources can be found online at the SAAVI website and at the Counseling website.

Faculty, Staff and Employees Who Can Assist Students

USU has eight designated Title IX Deputy Coordinators, who are each housed in critical areas on campus including student affairs, housing, athletics and human resources. See the website for information. Students who experience sexual assault are encouraged to speak with these individuals so they can assist them with getting the support and services they need. Title IX Deputy Coordinators will also report the information they receive about an incident of sexual assault to the Title IX Coordinator, who will contact the victim to provide information about resources and reporting options, including filing a formal complaint with the Title IX Office.

Students may also speak with a number of other individuals whom they trust on USU’s campus, including faculty, advisors, staff and other USU employees. Disclosing an incident of sexual assault to these individuals will also result in a report to the Title IX Office.

USU’s Title IX Office

When the Title IX Coordinator receives a report of sexual assault, the Title IX Coordinator will contact the victim to provide information about resources and reporting options, including filing a formal complaint with the Title IX Office.

In most instances the Title IX Office can and will honor a victim’s request for confidentiality (including not conducting an investigation to avoid disclosing her/his identity). However, this is determined on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, after considering a number of facts, if the Title IX Coordinator feels there is an ongoing danger to the victim or to other members of the campus community, and if the Title IX investigator has adequate information to conduct investigation, the University may have to override the victim’s request for confidentiality and conduct an investigation.

Assistance Provided to Students Who Have Experienced Sexual Assault or Other Forms of Sexual Harassment

Regardless of whether a student chooses to report to a confidential counseling resource or to faculty or employees (and thereby possibly trigger an investigation), USU provides a number of services and resources to victims of sexual assault. These include free counseling services, academic assistance such as rearranging classroom schedules and obtaining accommodations for course deadlines, changes to housing assignments, and support from student affairs and other trusted faculty and staff.

Additional Information About Resources and USU’s Response to Sexual Assault
Additional information about sexual assault and the university’s response to incidents of sexual assault may be found online.

At USU, we are committed to addressing the issue of sexual assault and its effects on University students. We continue to review our policies for better efficiencies and effectiveness. We are also constantly evaluating the extensive support services we have available so we can pro-actively support our students.

If you have any additional questions about this process, please contact Stacy Sturgeon, USU’s Title IX Coordinator. 

Contact: Tim Vitale, executive director, Public Relations & Marketing, Utah State University, (office) 435.797.1356, tim.vitale@usu.edu

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