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University to review its handling of sexual violence reports

September 5, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced that a committee will review the school’s policies and procedures for investigating sexual violence and harassment, which students and staffers have been pushing administrators to do for months.

The committee will include members from 25 campus organizations and will advise university Chancellor Ronnie Green on matters related to Title IX and violence prevention, Green said in a news release Wednesday.

“Over the past several months, I have listened carefully to survivors of sexual assault and harassment who have courageously come together through their personal experiences to call for elevated university attention to prevention, advocacy and support,” Green said.

Dear UNL, a group that includes students and staffers, said it is a good first step toward addressing members’ concerns. But some members also said the university’s plans don’t yet adequately reflect the group’s recommendations.

The group has complained to administrators and the Board of Regents that the university’s Title IX office has inadequately addressed complaints of sexual assault or harassment. Title IX is a federal law that forbids discrimination in educational institutions on the basis of gender, and the university office investigates allegations of sexual abuse, violence and harassment on campus.

Several current and former students sent letters in March to Green, describing their experiences. Many criticized the handling of their cases as deficient and some said they felt revictimized after their dealings with Title IX investigators.

If the Title IX office isn’t fully supportive, it’s because that’s not its mission, administrators said. Instead, the university can provide victims’ advocates, counseling services and intervention from university police, they said.

Dear UNL wants the Title IX office’s coordinator to be replaced and for its staff to be enlarged. The group also recommends that more training on dealing with sexual violence be arranged across the campus community.

It’s unclear whether any Dear UNL member will be part of the new committee, but one student, Kamryn Sannicks, told the Lincoln Journal Star that she wants administrators to continue meeting with her group.

“I hope this new collaborative and the UNL administration will stop seeing Dear UNL’s efforts as negative, and that they would show a willingness to work with us and the experience we’ve had,” she said.

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