Sexual assault review panel to begin work this week

The review panel appointed by President Michael Gottfredson to examine the University of Oregon’s prevention and response to sexual misconduct and violence will be on campus for its first meeting July 30 and 31.

The eight-member panel’s work will first focus on establishing the group’s organizational structure and goals, as well as gathering background information for their review. University leaders are also arranging to make a number of key stakeholders available for interview by the panelists.

“We want to give the panel the control and flexibility to decide how to conduct its review, and be as efficient with their time as possible. So we have created a tentative agenda and hope to have at least a dozen people representing a cross section of campus available for initial interviews,” said Greg Rikhoff, assistant vice president and chief of staff for the Office of the President.

The agenda includes an overview of sexual assault prevention and response policies from enrollment management, student life, affirmative action and equal opportunity, the UO police department and the general counsel’s office. It will also cover Title IX obligations, Clery Act requirements and other legal requirement related to sexual assault. The panel is expected to seek campus and community input but may wait until students and faculty are back on campus before scheduling any public forums.

Gottfredson, Vice President for Student Life Robin Holmes and Athletic Director Rob Mullens have asked the panel to study and evaluate the UO’s existing practices and policies for preventing, reporting, responding to, providing support for, investigating and adjudicating sexual misconduct.

The panel is made up of local and national experts in the fields of law, higher education, student conduct and athletics. The panel also includes a former student and a member of the UO Board of Trustees. One initial panelist, recent UO graduate Laura Hinman, is no longer participating due to graduate school conflicts. She has been replaced by recent UO graduate Lyndsey Goforth.

The panel was formed following a report of sexual assault that increased awareness about the issue on the UO campus and the release of recommendation by the White House Taskforce to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

“I assembled this panel because of my deep concern about the problem of sexual misconduct at the University of Oregon,” said Gottfredson. “Although one recent high profile case at the UO is the proximate stimulus for our initiative, the data clearly show that these issues are not confined to any one department, or incident, nor can they be addressed by any one policy or tactic.”

Gottfredson says his own work in criminology and social behavior makes it clear that prevention is far and away the best place to invest much of our energy for ending sexual violence.

“We must find ways to promote campus ownership of the campus climate,” said Gottfredson “We must work to educate and engage students, faculty and staff. We cannot ignore the culture, pressures and expectations that have encouraged behaviors that can devastate lives.”

Holmes says the president has encouraged everyone on campus to share information readily and to work openly with the panel. She hopes the panel is able to complete its review and offer recommendations in a matter of months.

“We will keep looking to improve our practices while we await the panel’s counsel, and we are eager for them to complete their review as soon as possible," said Holmes. "This is an incredible opportunity for us to move the campus forward, and share what we learn with our peers.”