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FAYETTEVILLE -- An annual report published by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville shows the school's Title IX office reviewed 53 complaints of sexual assault or nonconsensual sexual contact involving students in the 2017-18 academic year.

Most cases did not result in a decision on student disciplinary action. Reasons for complaints not proceeding included a lack of evidence or students deciding not to continue with the campus investigation process, the report states.

Five cases resulted in sanctions after students were found responsible for conduct violations, while in two other cases students were found not responsible for misconduct.

Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at schools receiving federal money. UA and other schools under Title IX review reports of both sexual assault and harassment, doing so separately from any potential police involvement.

"What Title IX obligates institutions to do is be responsive and take steps to prevent and address these problems," said Kevin Miller, senior researcher with the American Association of University Women.

The first-of-its-kind report from UA follows a trend, said Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators and a consultant to universities.

"More schools are starting to release this data," Sokolow said in an email.

In an introduction to the report, Tyler Farrar, UA's Title IX coordinator, said the document "highlights the many variables that sometimes limit potential resolution options."

Out of the 53 complaints, in 12 cases a person making the initial disclosure declined to participate in a campus inquiry, while in 18 cases it was either unknown who might have committed an assault or the person was not affiliated with UA, the report states.

For nine complaints, "available evidence did not support a charge of policy violation or necessitate further investigation," the report states, and in six cases the university "honored [a] request by complainant for limited or no action."

"It's my hope that this report will create better understanding about our process and the obstacles we face as we strive to make our campus free of discrimination and sexual misconduct," Farrar wrote in the report's introduction, which is addressed to UA students, faculty and staff.

The report did not state the sanctions imposed on students found responsible after a sexual assault complaint.

Farrar said sanctions "available" for sexual assault cases "include expulsion, suspension, conduct probation, and/or other educational sanctions."

"The appropriate sanction is dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the severity of the allegations, the campus safety concerns, and if the Respondent has any prior University conduct-related history," Farrar said. The term "Respondent" refers to someone accused of misconduct by the person making the complaint.

The U.S. Department of Education has told schools they must provide a prompt resolution to sex discrimination and sexual misconduct complaints. The report does not include information about the length of time for complaints to be resolved.

"The UA strives for the prompt resolution of all complaints of sexual misconduct while providing a fair, neutral, and equitable process for all involved parties," Farrar said in an email.

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University of Arkansas Sexual Misconduct Annual Report

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He did not provide data when asked about the average length of time to resolve complaints.

"Providing an exact length of time or an average amount of days is difficult and likely arbitrary based on a number of variables," Farrar said. "Some investigations are completed in a matter of days while others may take longer to complete."

The report shows more than three times the number of sexual assault complaints than the totals listed for rape and fondling in UA's most recent yearly campus security report, highlighting differences in the types of data on assaults.

The annual security Clery Act report -- required of college and universities -- is limited in its scope to details about events reported as occurring on property owned and controlled by a school or student organizations, said Abigail Boyer, interim director of the Clery Center, a nonprofit organization focused on campus safety.

UA's most recent Clery Act report also was for a different time period -- calendar year 2017. The report stated that nine rapes and five cases of fondling were reported.

"The Title IX Annual Report identified potential violations of campus policy reported to the university irrespective of geographical location," said Farrar.

The Title IX totals still do not tell the complete story about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, however, said Shiwali Patel, senior counsel with the National Women's Law Center.

"It's great that schools are keeping track of what's reported to them," Patel said, but she added that "the majority [of sexual assaults] are not reported." In a 2017 UA campus survey, students were asked, "Have you experienced sexual contact without your consent since you became a student at this school?" A total of 266 students answered yes, or 15 percent out of 1,772 who answered the question.

In addition to statistical information -- such as a tally of 122 complaints of all kinds reviewed by the Title IX office in 2017-18 -- the report outlines student and employee training on sexual assault prevention.

The university, which has a total enrollment of about 27,700 students, had more than 8,000 students complete sexual assault prevention training for the year, the report states. An online training, "Haven: Understanding Sexual Assault," is required of new students, the report states.

Students who report assault or harassment to a school may be able to receive accommodations, such as alterations to their schedule or housing. The report states that five academic accommodations were arranged through the Title IX office, but that students also are granted academic accommodations through other means. A total of 17 no-contact orders were issued in 2017-18 through UA's Title IX office, the report states.

Numbers of reported assaults may indicate a willingness to come forward as much as any changes in safety at a college or university, Boyer said.

"When campuses are putting attention and resources into things like attention and response, and making sure people are aware of those reporting options, often we see those statistics might increase," said Boyer.

A 2016 federal lawsuit in which a former UA-Fayetteville student claimed "deliberate indifference" by the university after her rape report remains pending, as does a federal lawsuit filed this year by a former student alleging a violation of Title IX and due process after he was sanctioned by UA for sexual misconduct.

Metro on 11/10/2018

Print Headline: University of Arkansas lists Title IX assault reports

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