Members of the UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence stood at the University of Oregon administration's stoop Monday and demanded that UO officials take five specific actions -- ranging from surveying students about their experiences with rape to apologizing publicly "for lying about the university's failure to act on a reported sexual assault."
Professor Elizabeth Reis read the demands through a bullhorn and then handed the paper to Provost Scott Coltrane.
"We will take them under consideration, and we appreciate that you're very concerned," Coltrane told Reis and an assembly of students and faculty members.
"We are concerned as well," Coltrane said. "We absolutely want to stop all domestic violence. We want the campus to be safe for everyone. It's our job to protect everybody."
It was the coalition's third rally in the week since news broke about sexual contact between three UO men's basketball players and a female college student on March 9 in a bathroom at a party and in a bedroom at a student's house. The female student said she was assaulted; the players said the sexual contact was consensual.
The UO last week permanently dropped the players from the team but has not otherwise commented on their status at the UO.
Monday afternoon, the UO released this statement: "Last week when President (Michael) Gottfredson spoke with representatives of the UO Coalition, he asked for input -- and he's pleased they offered suggestions, which are under consideration. As the president said Friday, we have great expertise on our faculty, and we will draw on that and turn to them to help improve our response, support and prevention practices."
The coalition demanded that the UO provide independent advocacy for survivors of sexual violence that corresponds to the rates of attempted or completed assaults reported among undergraduate women, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one in five.
SASS contract held up
A long-standing contract between the Associated Students of the University of Oregon and the nonprofit Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County has been in doubt through the fall and winter.
The student organization -- which has contracted with SASS for years -- decided to double its SASS allocation for the 2013-14 school year so that the agency could hire a dedicated employee to serve the UO campus. But last August, before the contract was finalized, the UO administration intervened, said BB Beltran, SASS's executive director.
"They wouldn't speak to us directly," she said.
The best Beltran said she can glean is that administrators would require that the dedicated SASS staff member report any incidence of rape that a student disclosed. That would be contrary to SASS' federal agreements and best practices for helping rape survivors, Beltran said.
Without a contract going into the school year, Beltran said she had to cut back on campus work. "The crisis services is something we would always do," she said.
On Friday, as the UO president spoke about the incident involving the basketball players, the signed 2013-14 contract landed in Beltran's email inbox, she said.
"It came to us five minutes after the start of the press conference last week," she said. "Coincidence? I'm not sure. I'm just telling you the facts as they are."
But the annual contract is so late that it will expire in about 1Â 1/2 months. Beltran said she's not sure where the 2014-15 contract stands.
A UO spokeswoman released a statement late Monday saying the university would need more time to answer questions about SASS. However, "confidential support services for sexual assault survivors are available through staff at the University Counseling and Testing Center and the University Health Center," the UO said.
Sexual climate survey
The UO Coalition demands that the university help UO Professor Jennifer Freyd, a nationally known expert in sexual assault trauma, with funding to conduct a campus survey that asks students their experience with sexual assault. Freyd recently advised U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is drafting a bill to require such surveys on all campuses with federal funding.
"Climate surveys are absolutely needed," Freyd said Monday. "It's basically using social science research to collect accurate information about what's going on. When you get rates of sexual assault based on reported rates, it's a gross underestimate."
Freyd said she needs UO student email addresses and money to pay participating students -- about $20 each -- for their time, so she can get a representative sample of responses and not just from students aware of the issue of sexual assault. "Methodologically, we're going to get much better results," she said.
Freyd has been working on a proposal to do climate surveys across a set of campuses. Her research team has written questions, she said. "We have a lot of knowledge about how to ask about these things," she said. "If you go up to people and say, 'Were you raped in college, or did you rape people in college?' -- guess what people say. They say no."
Freyd said she can conduct the survey dispassionately even though she's a member of the coalition that's demanding change.
"I'm a good researcher," she said. "I'm going to submit this for peer review, and people can look at my survey. I will make my data available. I was already planning to do this. Other people are writing me from across the country and asking for my measures. There are other experts. We could pay to have one of them come in here, I suppose, but that would be a little silly.
"I have no desire personally to do anything but discover and share the truth," she added. "I don't want this university to crash and burn. I love the University of Oregon. I want us to be a national leader."
In a statement released late Friday, the UO said:
"Details haven't been confirmed about who will lead a campus climate survey at the UO. The president is committed to pursuing it. Best practices are that climate surveys are performed by independent entities in order to ensure unbiased collection of information."