Sexual assault concerns still prevalent at UAA

April is sexual assault awareness month. Sexual assault is an issue UAA is still grappling with and has made headlines on KTVA Channel 11 News. At the end of March, KTVA reported that Title IX administrators deemed sexual misconduct complaints against a longtime anthropology professor as credible.

That professor, David Yesner, has been retired from the university since 2017 according to KTVA. The period of time that Yesner has been accused of sexual misconduct was during a time when permanent Title IX administrators did not exist at UAA.

Instead, external law offices within Alaska were retained to administer Title IX complaints, according to university spokesperson Kirstin Olmstead. Pontius Law Offices was in charge of investigating complaints in 2017 and 2018.

During that period of time, UAA received 86 Title IX reports. Not a single report resulted in disciplinary action.

“These complaints reached UAA leadership in December 2017 and an investigation commenced immediately; however, we lost our Title IX coordinator and all internal Title IX investigators shortly after these complaints were filed,” Olmstead said. “Pontius Law Offices was hired to complete the investigation because it was critical that this investigation and other Title IX cases continue moving forward.”

According to Pontious Law Offices’ website, the firm specializes in “civil, criminal, and family matters.”

Current Title IX Coordinator, Sara Childress, joined the Office of Equity and Compliance in 2017 as a civil rights investigator. When she applied for the coordinator position, Childress said there was a lot about the office that needed to be improved, including concerns she had about revictimization, structure and retention in the office.

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Assistant professor of anthropology, Sally Carraher, is organizing an event in support of survivors of sexual assault to be held on April 22. The event is in direct response to news of sexual misconduct by UAA faculty, Carraher said in an email.

On Monday, the University Police Department sent out an email to the UAA community stating that Yesner is prohibited from campus and all UAA events.

In addition, Dr. Yesner is banned from participation, affiliation or association of any kind with the University of Alaska, including public or private events or activities sponsored or hosted by UA or by third party UA affiliates, whether or not on UA property,” Interim Chief of Police Michael Beckner wrote in the email.

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