Constituent Concerns: AR-15 Raffle and Sexual Assault

Recent incidents at two institutions of higher education (UGA in Athens and UNG in North Georgia) brought numerous inquiries in the form of Facebook messages, phone calls, and emails to my desk. I have reached out to both institutions to ask for their statement / clarification regarding these incidents. Their responses are below in their entirety and exactly as they were emailed to me. I put them here for your review to provide full transparency. Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback, and provide any additional questions in the comments section. Thank you.  Deborah

 

UNG: AR-15 Raffle

I will start with the second incident first since it is briefer in content.

On September 10, 2018 a photo of a flyer was posted on the Facebook page of the UNG’s College Republicans advertising a raffle for an AR-15 weapon. After numerous constituent contacts, I sent President Bonita Jacobs and Campus Director Cyndee Moore an email regarding the flyer. Here is my email and President Bonita’s response.

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Sent: 9/11/18, 8:38 am

Good morning President Bonita and Dir Moore:

Can you confirm if the following story is true that was posted on Facebook?

Thank you,

Rep Gonzalez

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Received: 9/11/18, 1:40 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

Yes, I learned about that earlier today. Below is our official statement. Know that I am happy to discuss further if you wish!

I’ve been in meetings all day. Sorry for the delay in responding!

Bonita

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The College Republicans at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega Campus are conducting a gun raffle to raise funds for their organization. While the drawing will take place this evening on campus, the weapon will not be on campus or handled by anyone on campus. The raffle winner will be provided a credential that they present at the gun shop to redeem their raffle winnings. The gun store will perform any compliance requirements for the transfer of ownership of the weapon, including a background check.  

The student group is a recognized student organization at the University of North Georgia. The group was advised and has followed applicable laws related to raffles, guns on campus, and transfer of ownership for legal weapons.

While the group has not violated any University policy or law, we recognize the sensitivity related to this type of weapon and gun violence. As a public university, we believe a dynamic learning environment requires open dialog of factual information, critical thinking skills, and respect for viewpoints different than our own. As educators, this is one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students.

 This situation presents an opportunity for us to initiate conversations with our student affairs leaders and student organizations about future activities to ensure that they are consistent with the educational goals of the institution.

Bonita C. Jacobs

President

University of North Georgia

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Sent: Sept. 12, 2018 9:13 am

My response back to President Jacobs:

Thank you so much Bonita for your quick response and the clarification. You can imagine the emails and messages I received from my constituents who were quite concerned that this type of weapon would be on your campus. Although I do not condone the raffling of a weapon of this nature (true to form of any weapon but that is a personal opinion) I am pleased to hear that it was a voucher and not the actual weapon to be given. The ultimate concern is one of safety for all those on the campus – students, faculty, staff, administration, even visitors and vendors.

Thank you again for your leadership,

Rep. Gonzalez

 

UGA: Essay for Sexual Assault

On August 6, 2018 WSB-TV had a report entitled “UGA student accused of sexual assault put on probation, told to write essay” by Wendy Halloran. I received links and concerns from constituents about this incident. I reached out to UGA.  What follows is the correspondence between me and UGA personnel.

Sent: August 6, 2018, 10:43 am

Good morning Toby and Griff:

I hope you had a good summer. As the new school year begins a news article is making its way around and I am getting emails, calls and messages from constituents. I’d appreciate a meeting this week to discuss the matter so I am brought up to date regarding how to respond. I am currently available the following: 

Tuesday, 8/7 between 10 – noon; 2 – 5 pm

Wed, 8/8 between 1 – 3 pm

Thursday, 8/9 9:30 am or 2 pm

This is a specific request from me, but I am copying my other elected officials in the Athens delegation should they wish to join us when we set the day and time based on the above mentioned.  

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/uga-student-accused-of-sexual-assault-put-on-probation-told-to-write-essay/805389293

Your prompt response to a day and time would be greatly appreciated so I can adjust my schedule accordingly.

Warm regards,

Rep Gonzalez

Sidenote: The other Athens delegation elected officials copied on this original email were: Rep Spencer Frye (HD118), Rep. Jonathan Wallace (HD119), Senator Frank Ginn (SD47), and Senator Bill Cowsert (SD46).

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Received: August 6, 2018, 2:48 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

Thanks for reaching out. Griff and I are on the road this week, and we’ll be together and available for a call early on Wednesday between 8 and 9:30am.  Would it possible for us to connect then?

Thanks,

Toby

 Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

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Telephone Conference Call: August 8, 2018, 8:30 am

A series of questions were proposed that UGA would follow up with me on.

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Email Received: 9/13/18; 4:33 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

 We worked with the appropriate UGA units and USG, and please see the answers to your questions below. Please let me know if you have any other questions or thoughts on this issue.

 A description of the overall process for sexual misconduct investigations at UGA from the reporting through finding and appeals. 

  • The University’s process for sexual misconduct investigations involving UGA students is governed by Board of Regents (BOR) Policy. BOR Policy provides that Complainants of sexual misconduct who wish to file a report with the institution should notify a Responsible Employee or the Title IX Coordinator. Responsible Employees informed about sexual misconduct allegations involving any student should not attempt to resolve the situation, but must notify and report all relevant information to the Coordinator as soon as practicable. Once a complaint is made, the complainant, respondent and alleged victim (where applicable) should receive written information about support services, such as counseling, advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, disability services, health and mental services, and legal assistance, available at the student’s institution. Interim measures may be undertaken at any point after the institution becomes aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct and should be designed to protect the alleged victim and the community. Before an interim suspension is issued, the institution must make all reasonable efforts to give the respondent the opportunity to be heard, consistent with the provisions in BOR Policy 4.6.5, Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Investigation and Disciplinary Proceedings(see attached). Both the alleged victim and respondent, as parties to the matter, shall have the opportunity to use an advisor (who may or may not be an attorney) of the party’s choosing at the party’s own expense for the express purpose of providing advice and counsel, pursuant to the provisions of BOR Policy 4.6.5.
  • The alleged victim(s) and respondent(s) have the option to end informal resolution discussions and request a formal process at any time before the terms of an informal resolution are reached. However, matters resolved informally shall not be appealable. Allegations of sexual misconduct may be resolved informally, without a determination of misconduct, if all of the following are met:
    • When complainant(s) and respondent agree to an informal resolution;
    • When the initial allegation could not result in expulsion;
    • When the complainant(s) and respondent(s) agree to the terms of the informal resolution; and
    • When the investigator concludes that informal resolution is in the best interest of the parties and the institution’s community.
  • Efforts will be made to complete the investigation within a reasonable timeframe, which will be determined based upon the allegations, availability of witnesses and/or evidence, etc. in a particular case. When the timeframe will extend past the reasonable timeframe, the parties will be informed of the delay and the reason for the delay. The investigator shall keep the parties informed of the status of the investigation.
  • All sexual misconduct investigations involving a student respondent, whether overseen by the institution’s Coordinator or the System Director, shall follow the investigation process set forth in BOR Policy 4.6.5.
  • All sexual misconduct hearings, sanctions, and appeals involving a student respondent, whether overseen by the institution’s Coordinator or the System Director, shall follow the investigation process set forth in BOR Policy 4.6.5.  All sexual misconduct adjudication involving an employee respondent, shall be addressed utilizing the institution’s employment policies and procedures. 

The UGA sexual misconduct policy

  • Effective August 14, 2017, alleged sexual misconduct, including any form of gender or sex-based discrimination or harassment, perpetrated by a University of Georgia student will be addressed pursuant to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (Section 6.7), which is attached to this email.
  • Allegations of sexual misconduct not covered by the BOR Student Sexual Misconduct Policy are governed by the University’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.

The USG sexual misconduct policy

  • It is attached as Board of Regents Policy.

Were the policies above the ones that were in place when the incident recently reported by WSB occurred?  If not, please provide those policies.

  • We cannot comment on a specific case, but WSB’s recent report refers to an incident occurring in the summer of 2017.  The BOR Sexual Misconduct Policy became effective August 14, 2017, and was applied to any investigations pending as of the effective date.

What mechanism exists to be sure that the three-person panel followed the correct procedures and policies?  Does this happen during an appeal?

  • The Office of Student Conduct oversees the hearings to ensure that the correct policies are followed during the hearing. The Office of Student Conduct does not weigh in on decisions but ensures that the panel follows all applicable procedures and policies. The Title IX Coordinator also sits in on hearings to ensure that all policies and procedures are followed correctly. Appeals are referred to the Dean of Students, who ensures policies are followed. One of the grounds for appeal under BOR Policy 4.6.5.3 is “to allege a procedural error within the hearing process that may have substantially impacted the fairness of the hearing, including but not limited to whether any hearing questions were improperly excluded or whether the decision was tainted by bias.” The Dean of Students corresponds with the Title IX Coordinator during appeals to ensure all policies are followed correctly.

 Several items related to the three-person panel:

  • How are panelists selected?
    • The University sends out a campus-wide email on an as-needed basis to ask faculty and employees to volunteer to participate as panelists. The University communicates with faculty and staff who volunteer or are nominated, explains the expectations of panelists, and provides training. UGA wants panelists to represent a cross section of the campus.
  • What are the qualifications for being considered to be a panelist?
    • Pursuant to BOR Policy 4.6.5, only faculty and staff can serve on panels hearing sexual misconduct cases.  To be a panelist, UGA faculty and staff members must be in good standing without disciplinary complaints. Panelists must also be individuals who have not taken an advocacy position in favor of victims or accused.
  • How are they trained?  Please provide an agenda of training.
    • Before they can serve as panelists, UGA faculty and staff must complete comprehensive annual training on: Title IX, the Clery Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, USG policies governing student conduct, UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy, the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, and the formal hearing process.
  • How often is training updated, reviewed or refreshed?
    • The University holds the training annually and makes adjustments when necessary.
  • Description of number of panelists and how often they change?
    • There are currently 18 panelists. Panelists must undergo annual training to serve.  Panels for each case consist of 3 members, selected based on availability, preferably with at least one man and one woman on each panel.

 Please review the joint House-Senate higher education committee meeting that happened early during the 2018 legislative session regarding campus safety and HB 51.  References to data reporting were apparently made during the hearing, with the discussion relating to the “incomplete” data.  Is there more up-to-date data that can now be reported?  If so, please provide it.

  • From USG: The institutions would have data regarding the reports that have been filed with their Title IX coordinators and the various types of complaints that have arisen on each campus.
  • The UGA Title IX coordinator has received 93 complaints of student sexual misconduct since 2012. Below is a breakdown of the total number of student sexual misconduct complaints by calendar year:
    • 2018 – 18
    • 2017 – 12
    • 2016 – 19
    • 2015 – 16
    • 2014 – 16
    • 2013 – 8
    • 2012 – 4
    • Total – 93

 Is there an existing task force at UGA or within a UGA unit that is looking at sexual misconduct?

  • While there is no formal task force, numerous UGA units and administrators continually review our policies, procedures, training, education, prevention efforts, and support resources relating to sexual misconduct. For example, the University has a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinated through the Equal Opportunity Office that meets once a month to discuss issues related to Title IX.  The University provides a number of programs and services to promote prevention and to support students. Here is a link to information about the services provided:  http://safeandsecure.uga.edu/preventing.html

 Is there a standing process or procedure for considering changes to the sexual misconduct policy?

  • Because student sexual misconduct is governed by BOR policy, any changes to applicable policies must come from the BOR.

 Thanks,

Toby

 Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

198 Waddell Street

Athens, GA 30602

404.863.5751

carr@uga.edu

Documents provided by UGA attached to email:

USG Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Board of Regents Policy

Board of Regents Policy

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Sent: Sept. 14, 2018, 3:18 pm

Thank you Toby – which were the “appropriate UGA units and USG” you worked with? I will be posting this response on a blog to answer my constituents’ questions. Thank you.

 Rep Gonzalez

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Received: Sept 16, 2018, 8:24 pm

Sure. Office of Student Conduct and the Equal Opportunity Office at UGA. Legal affairs at USG.

 Thanks,

Toby

Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

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