U. of Idaho Clarifies Policy on Reporting Misconduct

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The University of Idaho this week announced steps to clarify communication procedures in cases of sexual misconduct reporting.

A memo emailed to faculty and staff Monday noted that the university's written policies will now align with the State Board of Education's Title IX policies, even as university personnel have been trained in accordance with state policies since their implementation in August 2017.

The state board policy requires all university employees who learn of a sexual misconduct allegation to notify the Title IX coordinator within 24 hours, so long as the employee is not required by law to maintain the confidentiality of the disclosure.

UI spokesperson Jodi Walker told the Argonaut student newspaper that the changes were already present in the training of university employees, including student employees, whom she said share the same mandatory reporting duty as employees. She said staff and faculty that are not required to report are typically medical or mental health professionals.

"This is an important issue to all of us," Walker said. "I think each of us has a role to play in reporting and making sure that our students, as well as our faculty and staff, are in the safest environments and feel the most supported."

Walker also said the memo is in response to an independent report released during the review of former athletic director Rob Spear’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a student-athlete in 2012. Spear was terminated in August after reports surfaced he mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct by not contacting an independent investigator with the university.

Not only did the report conclude that Spear “responded inadequately” to reports of sexual misconduct by two athletes, it stated that university bore some responsibility for his underreporting because policy changes about sexual misconduct reporting were "seriously under-promoted." In 2012, then UI president Duane Nellis issued an emergency policy adding off-campus sexual harassment and violence to the university’s jurisdiction. However, the change was only communicated via an email sent to university employees at the time.

This lone email failed to highlight the rule change, resulting in faculty being "generally unaware of the change through 2013 and beyond," according to a report by independent investigators pushed last July.

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