Colleges and universities across the United States are challenged by incidents of sexual assault, relationship violence, sexual harassment and discrimination. The University of Arizona is no different.
In recent months, the university has become party to lawsuits that include concerning allegations. The university stands ready to respond appropriately to the allegations in these lawsuits throughout the legal process. We cannot engage in a fully transparent public discussion regarding specific reports of sexual misconduct involving students or employees. We have an ironclad obligation to comply with federal student-confidentiality laws and the constitutional privacy interests of our students, staff and faculty.
Much has been written and discussed regarding the university’s prevention efforts and response to Title IX issues, and some have even questioned our commitment to our students, faculty and staff, and our pursuit of the truth. I can tell you that we do care, that we are responsive, and that we must continue to seek ways to improve in these areas.
We must strive for excellence in our education, training and enforcement, knowing that although we may fall short of perfection, excellence is the standard. To that end, I insist that the University of Arizona raise the bar and become the exemplar for how an institution cultivates a culture that rejects sexual assault, relationship violence, sexual harassment and discrimination, and one that sets a new standard for response and support.
Sexual misconduct, relationship violence and any other form of discrimination are not tolerated at the University of Arizona. While we cannot guarantee that incidents will not happen, it is a top priority for us to do all we can within our roles as educators and employers to prevent them.
I want our community to know that the university takes every report of sexual misconduct seriously.
We work with affected students and employees to respond to their experiences and to support them. Throughout the investigative and disciplinary processes, we share with them their options moving forward, which can include reporting to law enforcement, class and residence hall changes, the implementation of no-contact orders, interim suspensions and confidential counseling. We also have an obligation to afford the accused due process and to uphold their rights. Those who are found responsible are held accountable.
Natasha Baker, a national Title IX expert with the law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer in San Francisco, will help us take a strong step forward. As I indicated in a campus-wide email on Feb. 13, we have retained Ms. Baker to guide us in a comprehensive review of our processes and policies. She also will review how we investigate reports, how we discipline misconduct, how we support survivors and how we coordinate with community agencies, such as local law enforcement and health-care organizations. Ms. Baker will share her findings with me and provide recommendations for moving forward, and we will act.
While I believe the UA of today responds effectively and as required by law, we will always look for ways to improve.
My commitment is that we will become a university to which others aspire on these issues. I will commit the institutional resources and take the actions necessary to place our prevention, support and response measures among the very best in the country.
Our students, employees and the university community deserve no less.