The interim president of the University of Maine at Farmington responded Tuesday to a Bangor Daily News story detailing how the school failed two female students who reported being raped.
In the email to students, staff, alumni and others, Eric Brown said that the students “showed great courage in opening an especially difficult chapter of their lives to public scrutiny” and that their stories speak to larger issues that the school wants to address. He was unable to comment on any details of their cases, he said, given that the women are pursuing legal complaints before state and federal governmental agencies.
“I was personally moved and saddened by this article. Nothing is more important to our well-being as an institution than the safety and trust of our students. I look forward to open conversations in the days ahead about how to ensure UMF is the best possible guardian of both,” Brown said.
He described four ways the university plans to respond:
— It will be offering two campus climate surveys to elicit feedback on a number of student issues, including perceptions of the school’s responsiveness to reports of sexual assault.
— On Wednesday night it will screen “The Hunting Ground,” a film about college coverups of rape, to prompt more discussion about “the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the accompanying institutional challenges,” he said.
— The school is starting a search for a new vice president for student affairs with “extensive experience in Title IX issues,” whose responsibilities will include maintaining a safe campus environment. Title IX is the federal law that sets out how schools should respond to reports of sexual violence.
— It will use a recent donation to pay for a new mental health counselor with experience dealing with sexual health and sexual assault.
In addition, he said, he had already received “numerous recommendations for further approaches and initiatives” from faculty, staff, students and alumni, and to “expect more to follow.”
In a story published online Monday, the two female students shared emails and documents to back up their stories of how the university responded to their reported rapes as part of the campus judicial process set out under Title IX.
One reported she was raped in 2017 and the other in 2018, and they both faced committees that decided they had been sexually assaulted. But then both students experienced errors in the handling of their cases and saw their findings overturned in bizarre fashion — and their feelings of safety evaporate. Read the full story here.
Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News. Questions? Write to email@example.com.
Have you gone through the Title IX process? We’re interested in learning more. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.