University of Northern Iowa leaders need to overhaul procedures for handling sexual misconduct complaints, a process mired in so much confusion that victims could be discouraged from stepping forward, according to an audit conducted for the school.
Students do not know how to report sexual assault and are given confusing information when they search it out. Investigations are handled inconsistently by different offices. And bureaucratic conflicts undermine the university’s ability to have a uniform strategy for complying with Title IX, a federal law that requires universities to respond effectively to safety and discrimination complaints or risk sanctions and lawsuits.
Those were findings in an audit conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, obtained by the Associated Press through Iowa’s public records law. The audit raises questions about whether UNI is doing enough to encourage reporting of sexual assault, help victims, investigate complaints and prevent problems from recurring.
“It pretty much indicts the university for having a top-to-bottom failure,” said attorney Pressley Henningsen, who is representing a Davenport woman sexually assaulted by two UNI football players in 2004 and contends she dropped out after administrators treated her with animosity. “This is 100 percent what my client experienced.”