Advocates say UH sexual harassment training should center survivors
Recent reporting from the Houston Chronicle shows that between 2013-2016 the University used a presentation for male athletes about sexual harassment and misconduct that emphasized the financial costs and the cost to their characters, rather than centering the experiences of survivors.
Some of the the images in the 51 page slideshow depicted women in a provocative manner and showed numerous dollar signs related to the fiscal cost of harassment. A series of question and answer slides featured a man dressed in a suit with a target practice bull’s-eye over his face.
“(Presentations) certainly encompass the tragic event and the emotional toll that it takes on victims,” UH spokesperson Mike Rosen said in an email to the Chronicle. “But there are other issues that we also have a responsibility to address.”
The University has abandoned the slideshow in favor of a more conversational approach with the program Coogs Get Consent. The program, introduced in 2012, is mandatory for all new students and discusses “healthy relationships, the idea of consent and, if something does happen, where they can go to get help,” according to Title IX coordinator Richard Baker said.
Victim advocates like Christopher Kaiser, director of public policy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said that seeing the images on the slides gave him pause.
“For someone who’s experienced a victimization in a context like that, that can come off as a heavy hit,” he said to the Chronicle.
Carly Mee, a staff attorney at SurvJustice Inc., told the Chronicle “the focus should be on the harm that it does to survivors.”
The University was under a probe investigating Title IX violations by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights from 2015-2017, which is why the slides were turned over then obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
President Renu Khator’s office will require faculty and staff to attend a new face-to-face sexual misconduct prevention training that will start in May. The training will feature 45 minute conversations with groups of 50-100 people and will combine with what Khator said is already a “robust” system of online sexual harassment training.
“We have aggressively addressed this issue over the years by hiring new personnel, refining our policies and regularly delivering prevention and awareness training within our communities,” Khator said in an email to the Chronicle. “But we can, and should, do more.”
You can read the University’s sexual misconduct policy here.