For Dear UNL members, the start of a new semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln means continuing to fight for change in UNL’s Title IX office, something the group has done since it started this past spring.
Group members met with UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and his chief of staff Mike Zeleny on June 10 to present their full list of demands regarding the Title IX office’s accountability, transparency, training, survivor support and staffing.
According to Dear UNL member and senior global studies and English double major Mar Lee, Green did not respond to those demands until Thursday, Aug. 15, 66 days after they initially presented them. When he did respond, Lee said Dear UNL was disappointed with the response and expressed their frustrations at the Friday, Aug. 16, Board of Regents meeting.
“We finally got an email back from the chancellor's office about the demands,” Lee said. They believe that what we are trying to do with them ... they have already met those requirements or they are already doing these things.”
UNL chief communication officer Deb Fiddelke said the chancellor appreciates the survivors coming forward and telling their stories. She said UNL feels confident in the resources available on campus and recent improvements made to them, including the hiring of full-time staff and a victims advocate.
“A lot of things they’re asking for are things that we were in the process of doing and that have occurred since their specific instances,” she said.
Fiddelke said the university is considering some of Dear UNL’s recommendations, including reconsidering designations of Title IX responsible employees, reviewing the training process and updating UNL’s Title IX website. She said the university is also working to better communicate the resources that are available.
“We do believe we have great resources on campus,” Fiddelke said. “But we haven't done as good a job as we could at telling students what's available and how to take advantage of those.”
Other recommendations by Dear UNL, like a committee to oversee the Title IX office, aren’t possible because of regulations surrounding Title IX as a federal statute, Fiddelke said. She also emphasized the difference between the roles of a Title IX coordinator, who investigates cases, and a victims advocate, who offers support to survivors.
Members of Dear UNL who are survivors of sexual assault feel their own experiences with the Title IX office show problems that need to be addressed, Lee said.
“Some of the cases from the members of the group have been as recent as last year,” Lee said. “So, if they're doing something, it's not working.”
In the meantime, Lee said Dear UNL will continue its sexual assault awareness projects. Members recently wrote facts about the “Red Zone” on the path to New Student Convocation.
According to Lee, the “Red Zone” refers to the statistic that 50% of campus sexual assaults happen between the day students move in and Thanksgiving break.
“We just want to make sure they're aware of this because I know that that was something that I didn't know when I came in to school,” Lee said.
Dear UNL will also host an art gallery on Friday, Sept. 6, at Sand Paro as another outlet for sharing survivor stories.
Lee said Dear UNL will continue to post updates on its website and stay transparent about communication with the university.
“I think it's important to have transparency between the chancellor and the group,” Lee said. “One of our core principles is transparency about the process, and I think we need to practice what we preach.”