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UT Austin says there was a decline in reports of sexual assault and harassment last year

A person wearing a mask walks past the UT tower.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
UT Austin said it saw a decline in the number of Title IV reports during the last school year.

UT Austin saw a decline in reports of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking during the 2021-2022 academic year, according to an annual report the university released Monday.

Title IX is a federal law that bars discrimination based on sex. The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2019 — Senate Bill 212 — that requires universities to make this Title IX data public annually.

“We received a total of 1,193 reports, which is a 16% decrease in the total reports that we received that meet the criteria for SB 212 when compared to the previous academic year,” Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez said.

While there were 1,193 reports made last year, there were 1,357 allegations. The discrepancy between those two figures is due to the fact that a single report can include multiple allegations. For example, one report could be for stalking and sexual assault. Data from the Title IX Office show the following allegations were reported during the last school year:

  • 167 allegations of dating violence
  • 720 allegations of sexual assault
  • 324 allegations of sexual harassment
  • 146 allegations of stalking

Alicea-Rodriguez said she thinks UT saw a decline in total reports last year because there have been fewer duplicate reports. The number of confidential reports made to designated employees dropped, while the number of reports made directly to the Title IX Office increased.

“Confidential reports are difficult for us to determine whether it's a duplicate report for something the Title IX Office already had or not because what we receive is just aggregate data," she said. "There's no identifiable information when it comes to confidential reports."

That means someone could report an incident to the Title IX Office as well as an employee at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, for example, and the office would not know it had been reported twice.

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UT Austin Title IX Office

The Title IX Office directly received 483 reports, while 710 confidential reports were made to other employees. Alicea-Rodriguez said she thinks one reason her office received more reports is because the university adopted recommendations from Husch Blackwell, LLP. UT hired the law firm in 2019 to review its Title IX and sexual misconduct policies. One of the recommendations was to improve and require training on how to prevent sex discrimination for all UT employees.

Alicea-Rodriguez said she thinks there was more awareness in 2021 about the services her office offers.

“We started to receive more reports for individuals that wanted to report the matter to the Title IX Office but were not necessarily seeking to pursue a grievance process — in other words to have the matter investigated," she said.

According to the annual report, 69 or 14% of the 483 reports made directly to the Title IX Office last year met the criteria for investigations. Twenty-three of the 69 formal complaints were investigated and adjudicated under the formal grievance process by Sept. 15. Thirteen of those did not meet the required evidence standard for a violation, while 10 complaints did meet that standard and led to a violation being found.

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UT Austin Title IX Office

The vast majority of reports did not lead to the formal grievance process. There are several reasons the Title IX office does not investigate; 169 reports could not be investigated because the person accused — known formally as the respondent — was not affiliated with UT. Another 117 reports were not investigated because they were submitted by a third party and the complainant did not want to pursue the formal grievance process.

Alicea-Rodriguez said the Title IX Office has a number of goals for the current academic year to continue to prevent sexual misconduct and raise awareness about available resources. One goal is launching a peer-to-peer training program. Another is training 100% of first responders, such as residential advisers and UT police, on trauma-informed practices. A third goal is to increase the response rate for complainants or people who make a report to the Title IX Office.

“So when we receive a report from a complainant we, on average, reach out to them within three days after receiving that report and from that outreach we have an 81% response rate from those complainants that follow up with our office,” she said. “And we want to see that increase within this academic year to 90%.”

Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at rfogel@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.