Rasmussen Says PSA’s Claims Are Inaccurate

By Letter to the Editor

On Monday, January 22, 2018, the Viewpoints section included an opinion piece entitled “University of Chicago: The Second Assailant,” which presented an inaccurate portrayal of the University-wide disciplinary system.

The piece includes the misleading statement, “Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016 alone, there were 148 reports of ‘harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct,’ yet the University-wide Disciplinary Committee only found 16 people responsible.” As is reflected in the annual incident report statistics, many, if not most such reports made to the University, are impossible to address through the University-wide disciplinary system, which applies only to complaints where the respondent is a UChicago student. In many cases, however, the respondent is not a student at the University, is never identified, or the complainant chooses not to initiate an investigation. As a result, between 2014 and 2016, 44 allegations—not 148—were made against 18 individual respondents. Seven of the allegations were withdrawn by request of the complainant, leaving 37 allegations that were heard by the University-wide Disciplinary Committee. Of these 37 allegations, the Committee found that students were responsible for 16 of them (43 percent, not 10.8 percent, as was suggested in the opinion piece). In addition, the piece attempted to condense multiple alleged incidents into a single persona, and in so doing, mischaracterized both the University’s process and the actions of University staff. Each complaint is addressed in accordance with University policies, federal and state law, and the wishes of complainants. The piece’s characterization of this process is inaccurate and does a disservice to the dedicated students, faculty, and staff who take their responsibilities in this process extremely seriously.

When a student or anyone else reports a potential violation of the Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct, there are three phases that occur: the report phase, the investigation phase, and the adjudication phase. These phases are separate from each other. If a student chooses not to initiate an investigation, the University is obligated to honor that request, with certain limited exceptions. Regardless of whether or not students choose to move forward with an investigation and the disciplinary process, they are entitled to receive University support and resources. More information about this process can be found online.

We deeply appreciate the collaborative work of students and organizations on this issue, including that of the Phoenix Survivors Alliance, and we want to continue the positive strides that these very students, staff, and organizations have made toward the safety and security of our campus community. We remain committed to presenting annual statistics in ways that are clear and informative and will make enhancements to these reports based on feedback and suggestions. Your sustained engagement on these issues is our best hope for positive change.

More information on University support and resources can be found online at: https://voices.uchicago.edu/equity/sexual-misconduct-and-title-ix/ and https://umatter.uchicago.edu/.

Michele Rasmussen
Dean of Students in the University
The University of Chicago