UWF Sexual Assault Cases Get Internal Review
The University of West Florida has released details of two reported sexual assaults this month that allegedly took place in a residence hall room. One was reported on Jan. 7; the other reportedly occurred on Jan. 18.
Also, there were two reports of acquaintance or date sexual assault in November.
Such cases should be reported to the UWF Police Department for investigation. But, there is also an internal probe, which is required for Title IX compliance.
“The main policy that we deal with is the Sexual Misconduct and Gender-Based Discrimination Policy. I think 2013 is when Dr. Bense signed that. And, it’s really what guides the protocol, the process internally for us addressing sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, said UWF Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Brandon Frye, noting that there’s also a Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation.
Frye also has served as Title IX Coordinator, which oversees the investigation of Title IX complaints, including reports of sexual misconduct, on the UWF campus.
Currently, Karen Rentz is the Title IX Coordinator for the University.
Frye says those policies spell out how the University will proceed with internal investigations of sexual misconduct or harassment cases, a process that is separate from any law enforcement probe.
“The courts or criminal processes are looking at ‘did you violate the law.” We’re looking at ‘did you violate an administrative policy’ to look to address that,” he said.
There several steps and processes that occur when a Title IX Coordinator receives a complaint, including a cursory review of the complaint and determination of the parties involved (registered students, faculty, staff, or third party).
An Intake Coordinator is then assigned to meet the Complainant and Accused to ascertain their perspective of the issue and find out if there are any reasonable accommodations they’d like, such as ‘no contact’ orders and academic reassignments.
The Intake Coordinator sends those notes to the Title IX Coordinator, who determines if an investigation is warranted. UWF has two IX investigators to handle the duties.
After the probe is completed, that report is submitted back to the Title IX Coordinator to be reviewed and sent to the individuals involved, who will have two weeks to respond. From that point, if it is determined that University policy was violated, the case is sent for adjudication before a Student Code of Conduct Committee, which is made up of trained faculty, staff, and students.
“The committee, they’re going to look and see; one, did they violate the policy,” said Dr. Frye, referring to the potential outcomes of the committee hearing process. Once adjudicated, there’s an opportunity for appeal.
After the appeals process, an accused student could be face a range of disciplinary actions from a warning to suspension and expulsion, based on the nature of the case.
“The most egregious thing we could do since we’re not a court of law is expulsion,” Frye said. He adds that expulsion is warranted in some of the most serious cases and the criminal justice process could result in jail and prison sentences.
Otherwise, when it comes to student conduct issues Frye says “We want it to be an educational process. We’re an institution of higher learning.”
He says the goal - in either case - is to prevent sexual misconduct and harassment from happening again on the UWF campus.
Note: The University of West Florida has appointed a Title IX work team committee to review the current version of UWF’s Sexual Misconduct and Gender-Based Discrimination Policy. A draft of the proposed update is expected to be rolled out for comments from the university community in the coming weeks.
For a review of additional Policies, Acts, and Laws, visit UWF Wellness Services.