This story was updated at 3:33 p.m. on May 20 to include quotes from University of Nebraska-Lincoln spokesperson Leslie Reed.
This story was updated at 7:42 p.m. on May 20 to include quotes from University of Nebraska-Lincoln spokesperson Leslie Reed.
A group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, staff, faculty and alumni met with Chancellor Ronnie Green on Monday, May 20, to discuss their concerns about the university’s management of sexual assault complaints under the Title IX office.
Prior to the meeting, some members of the group built a website titled “Dear UNL." The goal of the website was to to raise awareness about alleged mistreatment of sexual assault survivors by UNL’s Title IX office, according to website contributor Mar Lee.
UNL spokesperson Leslie Reed said the chancellor decided to meet with the Dear UNL group after ongoing correspondence with the individuals.
“The chancellor conducted a listening session today because he wanted to hear the group’s ideas and concerns and because he takes campus safety seriously,” she said.
According to Giselle Nevarez, a website contributor and Department of Sociology staff member, the group used Monday’s meeting to discuss their five demands — accountability, transparency, staffing, survivor support and training — and their definitions.
She said the group’s outline for what needs to change is modeled after LB702, a bill introduced by Nebraska Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh on Jan. 23. The bill would require all Nebraska post-secondary institutions to establish the same rules and procedures for resolving allegations related to sexual assault.
Nevarez said the group proposed the addition of an advisory board at UNL where student membership would renew every two years and staff or faculty membership would renew every four. She said the board’s purpose would be to ensure a fair outcome for Title IX investigations.
At the meeting, she said Green expressed he would also like to see the development of some sort of advisory board.
“Today was a listening meeting, so we are hopeful in Chancellor Green’s commitment to continue working with the group to understand trauma-informed methodologies in future meetings and institutional processes,” she said.
According to their website, 21 people, including survivors and supporters, wrote letters to Green between Tuesday, March 26, and Wednesday, April 3, of this year expressing concerns about their experiences with the university's Title IX office.
On Wednesday, April 10, 20 out of 21 writers received the same response from Green, with only their names changed, according to the website. Contributor and senior English and global studies double major Mar Lee wrote three pages detailing their experience with the Title IX office and how it doesn’t align with the values of a research based institution. Lee said it was disappointing to see everyone received the same response.
“The answer that I received clearly shows that my letter had not been read and did not address any of the points that I had in my letter,” Lee said. “And it provided information that was irrelevant, really, to what I was discussing in my letter.”
Green’s response to their letters said Pete Jeyaram, the NU system’s chief compliance officer, was willing to have a meeting with the writers. Nevarez said they declined the offer because they wanted to speak with someone directly above UNL’s Title IX staff.
According to the website, the group sent in a formal request on Monday, April 15, to meet with Green. While they waited for a response, they worked on the website with a page explaining Title IX. The website also offered a way for others to submit their experiences with UNL’s Title IX office and resources for those who have experienced sexual violence.
“The website was a way of stressing how important this situation is and reminding people that we’re individuals, but when we’re a group, we can create change and actually address issues that aren’t working for a large group of people,” Nevarez said. “It just takes organizing and discussion.”
The website went live on Sunday, April 28. Lee said it was an exciting feeling to finally publish all the information the group had worked to compile.
“I was anxious; I was shaking,” Lee said. “I was full of adrenaline and completely excited about it.”
Two days later, the group received an email from the chancellor’s chief of staff Mike Zeleny saying Green wanted to meet with them.
Apart from the university’s response, the group has also seen a strong response from other UNL students and the Lincoln community, Lee said.
“That was a signal for me that, okay, this is working,” Lee said. “This is going the way we wanted it to.”
Website contributor and graduate student Luz Sotelo said the meeting with Green is the first step in improving UNL’s Title IX office.
“At the end of the day, UNL is our institution we'll graduate from and we all care about UNL,” she said. “So, if we're doing this, it's because we want UNL and the Title IX office to better serve UNL students and the community.”