The University of Arizona is adding staff members and changing policies and procedures involving sexual abuse and dating violence, following the completion of a comprehensive review by a national expert.
In March, after months of headlines involving violence and sexual misconduct involving Wildcats athletes, the school retained San Francisco attorney Natasha Baker to review the UA’s Title IX policies and procedures.
Title IX is a federal law designed to protect students from sex discrimination, including harassment, abuse and domestic violence.
Baker, who works at the firm Hirschfeld Kraemer, assists campus administrators about Title IX compliance and campus investigations.
“(Baker’s) charge at Arizona was wide-ranging to help us improve in all areas related to campus sexual violence and harassment,” UA president Robert C. Robbins wrote Thursday in an email sent to faculty and students.
Baker interviewed more than 55 people and reviewed thousands of documents before determining the UA’s Title IX policies were in compliance with all laws and federal guidelines, the email said.
But Baker also recommended several improvements that the school will be acting on. These changes include:
- A new, full-time Title IX coordinator. The position is currently held by Mary Beth Tucker, who has other job roles and duties. The UA will begin a national search for a new coordinator; Tucker will continue in her role until the position is filled.
- A plan to “unify” the UA’s Title IX processes to eliminate any confusion and maximize investigative resources. The process will be guided by the new Title IX coordinator.
- Two new positions, both of which will support survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and discrimination.
- One position to help students accused of Title IX violations navigate the process and find resources.
- A new protocol for information-sharing and use of evidence between UA police and campus investigators. UA police officers will also receive more training about the protocol.
- A new, UA-led training about sexual assault for all staff that work with campus health facilities.
- The appointment of additional deputy Title IX coordinators “at appropriate locations” within the school, including locations beyond Tucson.
- Additional training for all UA staff and faculty, who are mandatory reporters when it comes to reports of potential Title IX violations.
- Enhanced prevention efforts across campus.
“We will make all reasonable efforts to provide transparency during the anticipated personnel transitions and to share more broadly the university’s story of our efforts in prevention, education, training and survivor support,” Robbins wrote in the email.
“This is not the end but rather just the beginning of our efforts to improve and enhance our Title IX efforts and our support for those who have survived sexual or domestic violence or harassment, as they are the center of our commitment.”
The completion of Baker’s review comes following a series of on-campus scandals and arrests, and just weeks after former UA track and field coach Craig Carter was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting and stalking a student-athlete in 2015. Carter was convicted of choking former UA thrower Baillie Gibson while threatening her with a box cutter in his office. The pair was involved in a sexual relationship that Gibson said was not consensual.
The UA is currently battling a related lawsuit in Pima County Superior Court, saying that athletic department officials were aware of the relationship — which was forbidden under the employee handbook — and failed to take action to protect Gibson.
The UA is also defending itself in two federal lawsuits filed by victims of former UA running back Orlando Bradford, who was sentenced to five years in prison in November for repeated assaults of two of his ex-girlfriends.
Campus police reports show that several months before Bradford’s September 2016 arrest, a third woman told UA police that Bradford had beaten her. The lawsuits say that instead of acting to prevent Bradford from harming other students, the school moved Bradford to off-campus housing and issued him a no contact order.
One of the lawsuits says the UA acted with deliberate indifference in its handling of Bradford and that the athletic department fostered a sexually hostile environment.
The UA fired football coach Rich Rodriguez on Jan. 2, the same day a $7.5 million sexual harassment claim against him went public. In it, Rodriguez’s former administrative assistant detailed what she said was a series of unwanted advances and attention and inappropriate behavior by Rodriguez. The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed with the state’s attorney general’s office but has not yet been filed in court.
One of Rodriguez’s former players, Scottie Young, remains away from the team while a misdemeanor domestic violence charge plays out in court.
When asked if he’d like to comment further, UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson said: “We’re going to let the president’s message speak for the UA.”