EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – As UTEP students prepare for the start of a new semester, teachers and faculty are learning the new role they will play in reporting assault and sexual harassment.
Before, if an employee of a public Texas university had knowledge of an assault, sexual harassment, or dating violence, he or she was not required by law to report it to a Title XI Coordinator. As of 2020 that has all changed because Senate Bill 212 was passed.
“I know individuals want to be helpful and they might have thought in the past that they could address the situation with that individual directly,” said Sandy Vasquez the UTEP Title XI Coordinator. “Now, with this new legislation, you know the requirement is that they do come forward and report it to the Title XI office so that way we can investigate and provide recourses to that individual.”
Some UTEP students say they may not want to confide in teachers and other faculty members knowing they have to report anything said to them.
“A lot of students are afraid of reporting that type of concerns and when they do step forward to report they are usually afraid of retaliation from the other person or that the problem could escalate,” said Karla Salmanca UTEP Student.
However, Senate Bill 212 states it is prohibited for anyone to retaliate against the person who comes forward.
“We provide assistance to them, we check in on them to make sure everything is going okay, that no negative action has taken place against them,” said Vasquez. “If they were to come forward and say now since I came forward I’m being treated differently then we would have to look into that behavior.”
Student employees will not be required to report, but they are encouraged to.
Still, one UTEP employee believes it violates the trust between students and faculty.
“Having the staff take responsibility when students do not want us to can greatly affect the trust that the students have when it comes to us being a safe space,” said an anonymous UTEP Employee.
UTEP says if students do want to speak to someone and keep it confidential, they can speak to a school counselor or a school health care provider and the information they give will not be reported.
In 2019 there were nine cases at UTEP referred to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution of incidents involving students. However, there were no cases reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office involving staff. UTEP says they hope the new law will encourage more people to come forward.