Flawed Justice In University of Kentucky’s Title IX System

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If UK wants to help survivors of sexual assault, why does it fight to protect the people who hurt them?

Earlier this year, UK trustee David Hawpe compared the way the university deals with sexual assault to the way the Catholic Church protected priests who molested children.

Hawpe wasn’t far off.

At UK, people accused of sexual assault can simply leave without a trace, moving to other universities without worry that their offenses could come to light.

It is this flawed system that UK is out to defend in its lawsuit against the Kentucky Kernel.

UK says it wants to protect survivors, but further analysis raises doubts about that argument.

So here’s how it works:

When UK’s Title IX office finds that someone likely committed sexual assault, it recommends sanctions that could include suspension, expulsion, or for employees, termination.

Employees have the ability to resign instead of being fired, and, as in the case of former associate professor James Harwood, the university sometimes continues to pay those employees after they have accepted sanctions.

In either case — whether they resign or are fired — UK files a “separation sheet” that is supposed to explain why the employee left.

But here’s the thing: the supervisors who fill out separation sheets are not required to include findings of Title IX investigations, even violations of sexual misconduct policy.

So a faculty member could sexually assault a student, resign, continue to receive a paycheck, and get a job at another university without that university ever knowing he or she resigned because of a Title IX investigation into sexual assault.

The system can fail survivors too.

As one sexual assault survivor who reached out to the Kernel explained, UK can neglect to inform survivors of an important part of an investigation’s conclusion — what will happen to their perpetrator.

The survivor who spoke with the Kernel ran into her rapist multiple times on campus, even though Title IX officials led her to believe he would no longer be able to make contact with her.

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