U.S. Attorney Joins UO Sexual Violence Task Force

After allegations of a sexual assault by three Duck basketball players surfaced in May, UO President Michael Gottfredson announced he would appoint an independent review panel “to examine our practices for preventing and responding to sexual violence.” UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd then emailed Gottfredson and suggested he appoint Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall to the panel. He did not. That panel, which Gottfredson selected together with Vice President for Student Affairs Robin Holmes and Athletics Director Rob Mullens, was appointed in June and had its first meetings July 30 and 31.

The UO Faculty Senate formed its own separate task force on the issue, and Marshall, a UO grad with an extensive background dealing with issues of sexual and domestic violence, has now been appointed to the faculty’s Task Force to Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support. The 18-member task force includes students as well as others known for their work on sexual violence issues, including Freyd, Associate Dean of Students Sheryl Eyster, professor Cheyney Ryan and Carol Stabile, who is the director of the UO’s Center for the Study of Women in Society. The task force had its first meeting July 24.

Ryan, who has long criticized the UO’s handling of sexual assault cases, says of the task force and Marshall’s appointment, “I am excited that these issues are finally being addressed in a systematic way.”

Freyd, who was invited by the Obama administration twice to Washington, D.C., as a result of her research on institutional betrayal and sexual violence, says that the Senate task force “has been charged to review the university’s response to recent incidents of sexual violence, and based on that review, make recommendations for changes that will reduce sexual violence on campus and support survivors.”

She says task force meetings will be open and materials will be open to the public. Freyd adds that she and her grad student collaborators are working “diligently to launch a comprehensive campus sexual violence survey so that we will be informed by solid social science data.”

Freyd’s offer to conduct a campus climate survey was rejected by the UO in June. Climate surveys of the type Freyd will be launching, without the UO’s help, are recommended by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in order to gain a more realistic number of how many students are victims of sexual assault.

Marshall says her background on sexual violence dates back to her own years as a student at the UO when she worked in the women’s resource and referral center. Later, as a deputy district attorney, she created the Coos County Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit and helped develop a community response to domestic violence focusing on enhancing victim safety and offender accountability.

Marshall says that in her roll as U.S. attorney, “part of my job is to carry out the mission of the Obama administration” and one of the White House’s current goals is taking a hard look at sexual assault on campus. She says this task force is working on recommendations made by the White House such as conducting surveys and getting a “true picture” of how information is collected and how campuses respond.

“As a Duck and UO alum I care deeply about the university and want to bring any expertise I have,” she says. “My work has always been about ensuring victims are served and victims are safe,” and she says she will “ensure anything implemented is based on evidence.”