Campus implements program to better protect UCCS community

Sept. 8, 2014

Samantha Morley
[email protected]

Faculty and staff will no longer be confidants for students.

Federal law prohibits professors, student employees and anyone else employed by UCCS from withholding information pertaining to sexual violence.

John Shymanik, senior psychology major, doesn’t agree with the program. “I think that if a student goes to a professor in confidence that it should stay that way,” he said. “A professor should ask if the students want follow-up action through another department rather than just having it automatically go higher with it. Maybe [the student] just wants someone to talk to.”

Over the summer, faculty and staff were trained for the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which came along with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. According to SaVE, all employees are required to report “discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct/ sexual violence and assault, stalking, and dating violence/ intimate partner violence” immediately.

“Everything is applied equally to men and women,” Katie Kaukinen, Respect on Campus program director said, “So if a man is a victim of sexual violence or dating violence [or] stalking, we have obligations to assist that victim.”

Kaukinen took the lead in educating faculty, staff and employees. She trains people using a 30 to 45 minute PowerPoint presentation. In the presentation, Kaukinen explains the definitions of various versions of violence and walks through the process to report an incident.

“When you leave the education, we’re hoping you start to think about ‘Well, if I were receiving this disclosure, how am I going to go about responding?’” she said.

All faculty, staff and employees are considered mandated reporters and are held accountable by law to disclose pertinent information. The report must be made to Public Safety, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.

Becky Seib, freshman in computer science, works in the IT department and agrees with the policy. “It needs to be out there,” she said. “If you don’t tell people, they’re not going to know and they can’t be helped.”

Dean of Students Steve Linhart would take the initial information provided by a reporter and determine if it would be appropriate to conduct an investigation.

“It depends on the situation who might be doing the investigation,” he said.

Kaukinen emphasized that faculty, staff and employees should still be open to conversations.

“We don’t want you to go ‘Stop talking, I’m going to report you.’ We want you to be empathetic. It’s talking, but how do you do that in a way that doesn’t scare the student, that doesn’t make them feel like you just breached some kind of confidentiality with them. It really takes some thought,” she said.

If students want to keep information confidential but are still seeking help, they can contact the UCCS Counseling and Student Health Centers.

“I really believe … that victims need to be empowered to make choices on their own,” Kaukinen said.

If faculty, staff or employees do not report, they could place the university at risk of a lawsuit by the victim. A Title IX investigation may also be conducted. Title IX refers to the amendment that prevents discrimination of genders.

“We need everyone on campus to know that they are a mandated reporter,” she said.

Several colleges within UCCS are already trained and the rest will be trained soon. Kaukinen is also in the process of training freshmen students for awareness, which began during orientation.