UMD student government proposes mandatory fee against sexual misconduct
At The University of Maryland in Prince George's County some student leaders have found themselves at odds with the University. All of this over what they call "the lack of funding" toward investigating sexual misconduct.
Evan Koslof, WUSA 6:46 PM. EDT October 13, 2016
COLLEGE PARK, MD. (WUSA9) - At the University of Maryland, the student government has taken an unusual action, in proposing a fee against themselves in order to deal with investigations into sexual misconduct. The student body is looking to levy a fee of $34 on every student on campus, in order to increase funding for the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, known as the Title IX Office.
AJ Pruitt, a Junior, and the Vice President of Student Affairs for the Student Government Administration, said that the fee would address what he considered a lack of funding to the program. Due to a lack of staffing, the average time of an investigation into sexual misconduct was 142 days. The federal guidelines are 60 days.
"That is unacceptable," Pruitt said. "That is not providing students the prompt and efficient reaction to accusations of sexual misconduct."
Pruitt, and his classmates, took their calls for increased funding to the University, but the effort failed. That's when the government body decided to take the unusual action of imposing the fee.
"I truly do believe that as a student government," he said. "And as a student body, we were put in between a rock and a hard place."
A university spokesperson told WUSA9 that the institution is already doing their part. In a statement, the university said that they are paying more than $1 million on the program, and that the amount allocated has increased each year since it started in 2014.
"We are supportive of the Student Government Association's proposal," said spokesperson Crystal Brown. "Which, if approved, will supplement the existing budget and is a show of support for the important mission of the Title IX office."
Christina Paras, a junior at the school, said that she thinks the University should pay the full amount.
"I don't think we should have to pay for it," she said. "When it should be something the school provides us to help keep us safe."
The funding increase will go toward the hiring of four new employees, including two investigators, a Deputy Director, and a prevention coordinator.
If approved by a student-faculty committee, the proposal goes to the University President and the Board of Regions for final approval.
This week, Director of the Title IX office, Catherine Carroll, published an Op-Ed in the school newspaper, saying that prevention would be a big part of their effort.
"We are attempting nothing less than a culture change," she said. "To tackle an environment that tacitly permits 'locker room' talk and forms of sexual violence."