The University of Alaska has been pushing for completion of the mandatory Title IX: Sex and Gender Based Discrimination Prevention training for weeks, but the process has been met with mixed reactions. While there was a deadline of Oct. 31, as well as prizes and a potential account hold for spring registration, withdrawal holds were placed on Nov. 3: The withdrawal deadline.
Bruce Schultz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said that a registration hold meant a student would not be able to add or drop a course. Consequently, this also prevented the student from withdrawing.
“The university system did not intend to prevent students from completely withdrawing,” Schultz said. “It did recognize, though, on Friday, that the date they had selected coincided with the last opportunity for students to withdraw, so that’s why the holds were reversed off of people’s accounts.”
For that Friday, holds were temporarily lifted in order to allow students to withdraw from courses. It was on the following Monday that the holds were put back in place if they still had not taken the Title IX training.
It was not the university’s intention to prevent students from withdrawing, but it also was not communicated, according to UAA’s Dean of Students, Ben Morton.
“That wasn’t messaged to them, nor was it our intent to keep people from withdrawing, so we felt like that was unfair,” Morton said. “We made that correction to make sure that we were fair with folks.”
Even if holds are replaced on students’ accounts following the withdrawal deadline, they will eventually be lifted by Nov. 27 when open registration begins.
This decision was made on Monday, Oct. 30 by President Jim Johnsen and the chancellors, Schultz said.
“There was a group of individuals that made some recommendations to the president, and the president and the chancellors reviewed those and made a decision,” Schultz said.
Since then it has been communicated to faculty and students that, at the time, had holds on their accounts. Morton had sent out an email on the following Friday to these students to remind them about the training and the account hold that would stay in place until Nov. 27.
The university had recognized that prolonging these holds would interfere with students’ ability to take courses in the spring semester and decided that they would be removed in order to let them register.
“The last thing we want to do is establish a barrier that’s going to prevent students from continuing with their education… so that was the rationale behind it,” Schultz said.
Sarah Gray, USUAA delegate, said that the lack of structure made it difficult for students to be motivated to complete the Title IX training. It was especially troublesome to Gray seeing an inefficiency in communication despite the fact that she had received several emails regarding the mandatory training.
“I think not having a structured deadline and not having enough [posters] or information about it really was hurtful to students,” Gray said.
She also said that the university’s decision to lift holds on Nov. 27 will give students who have not done the training less of a reason to actually complete it.
“If you’re threatening students with holds and you decide to not put students on holds, I think it kind of discredits them, because now students don’t know what to expect,” Gray said. “If they say, ‘Hey, this new training came out and it’s mandatory. If you don’t take it you’re going to have a hold,’ and then people are like, ‘They’re just going to lift it like they did with the other training,’ they’re not going to be able to incentivize students to complete further trainings in the future.”
Currently, there are no plans in place for any other consequences that may follow if a student still has not completed the training by Nov. 27. Schultz said that the university will still address this possibility come spring semester.
“The decision as far as what the long-term approach is going to be for the university hasn’t been made yet,” Schultz said. “I would anticipate that there will be several discussions in early spring semester at the system level to decide how the program will be modified in the future.”
As of Nov. 9, approximately 79 percent of students system-wide have completed the training; 86 percent for UAA, 62 percent for UAS and 69 percent for UAF.
Morton is unsure that the university will reach 100 percent completion and this is in part due to the differences in enrollment between semesters.
“There’s a certain amount of attrition from a fall to a spring semester that happens regardless of Title IX training,” Morton said. “I don’t know that we’ll get to 100 percent. I’d like to get as close to that number as possible, though.”