Professors May be Forced to Report Sexual Assault if a Student Tells Them About It

The University of Oregon considered a controversial new policy this week that would require its employees to report any sexual assault allegations they hear from students, according to the Huffington Post.

There are varying opinions on the policy. The rationale for adopting the rule is to ensure the safety of its students and make sure sexual assault is investigated when it happens. According to the school’s general counsel’s office, Oregon needs the policy in order to comply with federal law. The rule would require any professor told about a sexual assault by a student reporting those details to the school’s Title IX coordinator.

But many feel that this rule would take away choice from survivors—for example, if a student has been sexually assualted but does not feel up to the process of reporting their case. These students would no longer feel comfortable going to professors to talk about their assaults.

“I think people get confused between stopping a cover-up and, on the other hand, requiring victims to give up their options,” Jennifer Freyd, an Oregon professor who studies sexual violence trauma, told the Huffington Post.

However, Julian R. Williams, vice president for compliance at George Mason University, explained to the Huffington Post that the mandatory reporting wouldn't mean that the student has to prosecute their attacker. Instead, the reporting allows university administrators to make sure the student gets what they need, whatever that may be. “What you want to do is be supportive, ask if they’re OK, if they’re safe — there’s no runaway train that starts,” Williams explained. “A good Title IX coordinator will reach out to the student and let them know their options, both internal and external resources. The ball is still very much in the student’s court.”

The University’s decision remains to be seen, but it does beg the question of whether or not this policy would actually have the desired effect of protecting students.