Friday, May 2, 2014

Hawaii Womens Legislative Caucus Reponds to Federal Title IX Investigation into UH

Earlier in this legislative session, the Women’s Legislative Caucus introduced House Concurrent Resolution 12 (HCR 12), asking the University of Hawaii to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the tenets of Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). Adopted in the last days of session, HCR 12 is one of a several measures relating to women’s rights and issues submitted by the Women’s Caucus that made it successfully through the legislative process.

“We asked the University of Hawaii to rededicate itself to ending all forms of sexual violence on all of its campuses, formulate concrete plans to address and prevent gender discrimination and gender violence, and provide a progress report to the 2015 Legislature on the University’s compliance with Title IX and VAWA,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), co-chair of the caucus.

“During the session, the University and Interim President David Lassner responded very positively to our resolution and were supportive of the Caucus’ requests,” added Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay), co-chair of the caucus.

House Concurrent Resolution 12 was passed prior to yesterday’s release of a list by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) identifying 55 universities nationwide under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. The University of Hawaii was one of those universities listed.

The schools were selected based on various sources of information, including statistical data, news reports and information from parents, advocacy groups and community organizations. It is the first time that the OCR made public a list of colleges under investigation and was characterized by the agency as taking a “proactive” step in light of a recent statistical report of sexual violence on college campuses across the country.

“Sexual harassment and violence against women are horrific and debilitating crimes that cannot be shoved under the rug or hidden from view just because they make us uncomfortable to acknowledge,” Belatti said. “The light has got to be shined on these acts of violence so that we can create safer environments that provide opportunity for all women to thrive and succeed. This federal investigation, HCR 12, and the University of Hawaii’s active support and cooperation will all go a long way in doing just that.”

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