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Letter to the Editor

The testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford weighs heavily on me. Survivors are watching and listening to how our government, country, places of employment and universities are responding to Ford’s testimony and the conversations around sexual assault and harassment. In my role as Portland State’s Title IX coordinator, I think of how this is impacting the PSU community.

We know that reporting sexual violence is one of the most difficult things for survivors to do for many reasons. As such, PSU strives to provide all the resources necessary to make sure all students are treated with compassion and the utmost respect during this process.

My goal is for students to receive the resources they need to continue their education and to help reduce barriers for students to report sexual misconduct—sexual harassment, sexual assaults or any other form of sexual violence, which are all covered by Title IX.

Some of the resources PSU provides include student access to confidential advocates, who are PSU staff members specially trained in the dynamics of sexual and relationship violence to provide students with confidential support. We encourage students to work with advocates to create safety plans, to obtain assistance in their academics and housing and to receive support in reporting sexual violence to law enforcement or university officials. When a student discusses an incident with an advocate, the information will be kept confidential unless the student decides to make an official report.

When a student files a university complaint against another student for sexual misconduct, the matter is handled by PSU’s office of the Dean of Student Life to determine if the accused has violated the student code of conduct. While consulting with me, a conduct officer investigates the complaint by meeting with all parties involved and witnesses separately. When appropriate, a case will be heard by the student conduct committee. These hearing are never heard by the PSU Board of Trustees as they do not get involved in sexual misconduct investigations.

During the conduct hearing, PSU takes efforts to reduce additional trauma by not having both parties present in the room at the same time and not permitting cross examination as you would find in court. The conduct committee decides whether there is a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning  that the accused will be held responsible if the conduct committee determines that the accused has more likely than not engaged in sexual misconduct. The investigations and hearing are conducted equitably based on the parties’ Title IX rights.

If PSU students experience sexual violence, myself and the university are committed to provide all the necessary support to assist the students to successfully handle their cases and continue their education.

Julie Caron, Associate Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion

Title IX and ADA Coordinator