RED ZONE: Burden of Proof

In a case of sexual assault on campus, there can be two different amounts of evidence required for action to be taken: “in preponderance of the evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Title IX and the University Police Department use these burdens of proof to take appropriate action on behalf of students.

Title IX’s burden of proof, “in preponderance of evidence,” is significantly less vigorous than that of UPD. It requires that there be just enough proof to make the victim’s story likely. Title IX officer Stephanie Whaley said this can even include cases where 51 percent of the evidence is in the victim’s favor.

With this low burden of proof, Title IX is able to take action at a civil level, meaning they are able to make arrangements for students that do not extend into the legal system, especially regarding the university environment. Some of these arrangements include immediate sanctions through the Dean of Students.

When a report is filed at the Title IX office, an investigative process begins.

“First, we ensure that the person feels safe,” said Title IX investigator Jerry Trew. “We conduct interviews, give education, that sort of thing. If it’s more serious, we can offer interim measures, which could be a class change, a room change in a residential environment, an escort to and from class, a no-contact order for students … we can do things like that to keep people safe on campus.”

Whaley said every reported incident that involves UAA students is investigated.

“When we’re doing an investigation, usually we’ll have someone come forward with complaints and we’ll talk to them about what’s going,” Whaley said. “Then Jerry (Trew) and I will determine whether or not we need to talk to anybody else. If it happens on campus, we’re going to look into it every time. If it has the ability to bleed back onto campus or affect campus life, then we’ll 100 percent look into it.”

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Whaley also said victims may choose for Title IX to take an advocacy role as oppose to taking civil action. In this case, Title IX is able to provide support through counseling services and other resources that may aid someone dealing with the residual feelings of an incident.

Both Title IX and UPD work closely to ensure the safety of all people on campus.

“By law, all crimes involving sexual harassment are handed over to Title IX,” said UPD Lt. Michael Beckner. “Within 10 days of an incident, we have to notify Title IX and they do an independent investigation. Title IX deals with civil penalties whereas we would take our case forward to criminal penalties and prison.”

Beckner said when a report is filed with UPD, the claims are reviewed with due diligence to see if they are viable. UPD’s burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the claim constitutes a felony, it is then presented to a grand jury that can give probable cause or “reasonable belief” to indict the person and continue with the process. Once the person is indicted, they are arrested and then presented before a judge, where a trial will take place.

Every person on campus has the right to feel safe and the right to be heard. Both UPD and Title IX take all reports of sexual harassment seriously, and victims are always encouraged to come forward to report their incidents, no matter how small it may seem. Anonymous reporting is also an option.

“Universities are stressful,” Beckner said. “People are here to learn and we don’t need the type of people that are there to harass, stalk or assault. If people don’t want the police involved, there is always an option to report.”

For more information, call the Title IX office at 907-786-4680, or contact University Police Department at 907-786-1120.