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PSU, PCC pledge to protect policies on sexual assault
Come what may, Portland State University and Portland Community College say they have no plans to relax the rules supporting survivors of sexual violence on campus.
Representatives from both schools gathered for a roundtable discussion after U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rollback of "failed" sexual assault policies created during the Obama years.
"The Obama administration was basically making universities aware that when a student experiences some form of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, it's going to be impacting their education," said PSU Title IX coordinator and associate vice president Julie Caron.
"My fear is they're going to be creating even more barriers for survivors coming forward," Caron said during the Monday, Oct. 15 meeting, referring to the current administration.
All incoming students at PSU are required to attend active bystander prevention training and take a module defining the different types of sexual misconduct. There are additional mandatory workshops on consent for everyone who lives in a PSU dorm.
PCC doesn't offer on-campus housing, but officials say sexual assault education and other equity work is tied to registration.
Traci Boyle-Galestiantz, coordinator of the PCC Women's Resource Center, says the school has learned how to market sexual assault prevention events in ways that will draw in male students — for instance, by describing them as a session with online dating tips or by hosting workshops at sporting and e-sporting games. She said men also respond much better when taught by other men.
"We had to be really sneaky," she said, "to get a man who doesn't necessarily participate in that sort of program to take notice."
The Obama Administration created guidelines for schools via a 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter that urged colleges to investigate reports of sexual misconduct within 60 days and avoid informal solutions like student mediation.
In 2017, the federal government removed both of those policies, and also called on schools to discipline or expel students only if there was "clear and convincing evidence." The Obama rules called for a lower standard of guilt based on the "preponderance" or majority of the evidence.
But Claire Rood — director of legislative affairs for a PCC student council — said it was incorrect to compare campus rules to the criminal justice system.
"The goal in court is kind of enforcement and punishment," she explained. "But Title IX looks at gender violence as a civil rights issue."
Local school leaders say 74 percent of campus assaults happen inside student housing, and that 90 percent of cases of sexual violence go unreported. Gay, trans and nonbinary students experience sexual assault and misconduct at higher rates than heterosexual students, according to the schools.
The discussion was organized by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who said the new rules "adds insult to injury for so many women."
"My concern is that these steps are going to make campuses less safe," he continued.
Alex Baldino, another Title IX coordinator at PCC, pledged that it wouldn't happen here.
"Our view will be to maintain our service, under state law if necessary, and really meet discrimination where and how it shows up in our community," he said.
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