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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Letter to the Editor: HRE Letter to the U Community

To our residents and student leaders: We hear you and want you to live in a safe space where all can find support and belonging.
%28Courtesy+of+the+University+of+Utah%29
(Courtesy of the University of Utah)

 

To the editor and the U community,

Housing and Residential Education recognizes the pain of survivors of sexual harassment and the discomfort of those who have been involved in difficult situations in their workplaces. Our staff — comprised of almost 400 individuals — is dedicated to supporting student well-being and success by creating an engaging community where students live, learn, and thrive. Our values reflect the organizational culture we have developed over the years, and we are disheartened to know that any student felt their voice was not heard. 

No employee or student leader should ever fear losing their jobs or housing accommodations for reporting discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct

Our department and the Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title X have a strong partnership that involves a prominent level of confidentiality to protect individuals involved in any process.

It’s important to note that all HRE staff, including Resident Advisors, are “mandatory reporters” under Title IX and are expected to follow university protocol for reporting these concerns. Staff should file an incident report and a report through OEO/AA/Title IX to allow the appropriate representatives to intervene and provide support and resources throughout the process. The investigation process is handled by OEO/AA/Title IX representatives, and HRE staff cooperate fully. Once a report is closed and OEO/AA/Title IX has reviewed the case and done proper follow-up, HRE will follow the recommendations from OEO/AA/Title IX.

It is also important to note that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits both offices from commenting with specifics on these situations. Protecting student privacy is a vital component of these processes. 

Hiring and training employees

Student leaders are rehired on an annual basis. Each fall, HRE opens the student leaders selection process for returning (i.e., currently on staff) and new candidates. As part of the process, returning students must complete a brief application while also engaging in the evaluation process. The evaluation process includes a self-evaluation that the student completed and an official evaluation that supervisors complete. 

Based on three components — application, interview, and evaluation — current staff are determined to be eligible for rehire. Multiple professional staff are involved in the process, including coordinators, their current supervisor, and management team members. This ensures a fair evaluation of the student leader to capture their holistic employment. It is important to note that student leaders may not be rehired for a myriad of reasons, including performance or failure to adhere to hiring or application timelines which would result in disqualification or removal from the primary hiring process.

Student leaders participate in seven intensive training days in August before fall move-in occurs. Training covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to, conflict management and mediation; emergency response protocol; Title IX prevention and response training; racial and bias incident reporting training; diversity, equity, and inclusion training; and residential curriculum training. Ongoing training is provided by the U, direct supervisors, and the central training committee throughout the year.

With their acceptance letter, student leaders receive HRE policies that they must sign and return. These are available electronically for review after that point and are reviewed again during the August training before residents arrive.

Over the last year, Residential Education implemented significant changes in its leadership, including hiring a new director in January 2023 and an associate director in July 2023. Residential Education professional staff go through an annual training in July. Topics include supervision; emergency response protocol; student conduct processes; Title IX and sexual assault response training; racial and bias incident reporting training; diversity, equity, and inclusion training; residential curriculum training; caring for students in need; and more. Ongoing training is provided by area supervisors and the department’s management team.

Support

We want every student employee, staff member, and resident to feel safe reporting behaviors that violate university policies and the Student Code of Conduct, including those university policies prohibiting discrimination, sexual misconduct, and retaliation.

If student leaders have supervisor concerns, HRE intentionally provides layers of opportunities for reporting them. Student leaders can report to assistant directors who supervise resident directors, as well as associate directors who oversee assistant directors, and ultimately, they can also contact the director of Residential Education and the executive director of HRE. 

All members of the U community have the right to a campus community free of discrimination and sexual misconduct, and at HRE we understand the importance of having a support system in place while living on campus, for both physical and mental well-being.

We empower our staff and residents to play an active role in keeping our communities safe and inclusive. To our residents and student leaders: We hear you and want you to live in a safe space where all can find support and belonging.

 

Respectfully,
Sean Grube, executive director of HRE

View Comments (2)

Comments (2)

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  • L

    Logical readerDec 2, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    This is a thoughtful response from the department but shows no stance on the original article that was written. FERPA prevents from stating specific details but does not prevent from taking a stance on whether a proper investigation was done or not. I feel for the students but also for those who were involved in the investigation of the allegations. Professional staff who have to investigate these type of allegations are placed in a very difficult situation they often allow them to be undermined. HRE hire professional staff to perform a job and often deliver difficult decisions that involve many upper managements but the entry level professionals are often unvalidated in their effort and unsupported in their efforts. There is a fine balance of validating students as well as professional staff. The Resident Directors also have their housing tied their their jobs and when false allegations are placed against them there is the fear of losing their housing and stability as well. HRE needs to do better for their students and their professional staff!

    Reply
  • E

    EMDec 2, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    This article perfectly reflects HREs deflection and lack of student voices. While I admire Grube for his contributions, he is quite removed from the student leaders in housing. When he speaks about the rehiring process, he fails to mention that several students who reported harassment or misconduct in upper-staff were rehired, and their reports are not retaliatory for the lack of a job.

    While that may be a motivating factor for some, I think it’s very important to pay attention to the statement that HRE takes student safety seriously and never wants their students fear retaliatory behaviors for reporting such incidents. There is no structured approach for rehiring that doesn’t allow for skewed impressions. In fact, Grube failed mention that a majority of the student leaders who missed said deadlines, was a result of HREs lack of communication, but yet was a determining factor in a student leaders ability to return to the role. What wasn’t a factor in a students ability to keep their role and/or return to a position the following year? Harassing fellow RAs and title IX violations.

    So tell me, how does that show HRE really cares about your students, your student leaders, or justice?

    Reply