UT-Austin employees report over 1,000 sexual harassment, assault accounts this year, according to University report

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Photo Credit: Jamie Hwang | Daily Texan Staff

University employees reported over 1,000 accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking incidents from January to August of this year, according to a University report.

Under a new state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2020, Texas higher education institutions are required to submit a report each semester detailing all accounts received from employees regarding sexual violence and any disciplinary actions taken. 

“This report is important in providing that transparency and actually telling our campus community exactly what happens when we received those reports,” Title IX coordinator Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez said.

University employees are required to file a report if they witness or receive information regarding potential sexual violence against a UT student or employee under the new law. Out of the 1,052 reports filed up until Aug. 13, the University investigated 112. 

The University logged 643 reports between Jan. 1 and March 15, 247 between March 16 and June 15, and 162 from June 16 to Aug. 13. 

Alicea-Rodriguez said she believes the spikes in reporting at the beginning of the year were because of Title IX training and education efforts, including three live webinars conducted at the end of January and February that educated University employees on Title IX and reporting requirements. 

Alicea-Rodriguez said she has not conducted research to see if the effects of the pandemic caused sexual violence reports to go down in the second and third quarter, but suspects it may have influenced the numbers.

“I think definitely the pandemic has had an impact in our reporting,” Alicea-Rodriguez said. 

After the pandemic subsides, Alicea-Rodriguez said the University will know what to expect for the average reported sexual violence cases each month.

Forty-seven percent of reports were not formally investigated by the University for reasons such as limited information and unknown identity of the respondent. 

As of Sept. 15, 6% of investigations conducted were in the preliminary fact-finding stage, 2% were in the formal investigation process, 2% had completed the formal investigation process without meeting the preponderance of evidence standard, and 1% had been completed and met the evidence standard. 

Of the 10 cases that met the evidence standard, eight are going through disciplinary processes and two have completed disciplinary processes, one resulting in verbal counseling and the other termination. 

Students and employees reported 447 accounts of sexual violence to confidential sources, or designated UT employees such as mental health care providers, who only have to report the type of misconduct to the Title IX Office, according to the report. Of the 447 reports, 363 were reported to the Counseling and Mental Health Center. 

Under the new state law, reports made to confidential resources, such as the CMHC, must be given to the Title IX Office, Alicea-Rodriguez said. Often these cases are duplicates, she said.

Alicea-Rodriguez said that if someone reports sexual violence to the CMHC, the report without idenitfiable information will be sent to Title IX. If that person gets to a place where they would like to report, it will be a duplicate of the first.

“Five percent of the numbers that once we started the preliminary investigation process, we were able to determine and confirm that this was actually a duplicate report or something that we had already addressed,” Alicea-Rodriguez said. “We may have more from those confidential resources.”

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said there are big differences in reports to confidential resources between universities in Texas.

“We looked at A&M and, for whatever reason, they have a very low number of confidential reports: 26,” Bird said. “That clearly reflects something about their campus. … Maybe it’s that we have mental health and counseling services and we went really big on that a few years ago, but I don't know.”