Title IX should create national database

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

The process of reporting an incident of sexual assault to a university’s Title IX program is arduous — from interviews to incident reports, there are multiple steps one must take in order to seek justice or some sort of reparations. While the Title IX office at Baylor has taken steps to make the process more inclusive, welcoming and easily navigated, there are plenty of universities out there that are far behind the curve. It would be prudent for the Department of Education to consider creating a nationally managed and equally accessible database for universities.

Universities manage thousands of students on a daily basis. Offices with special purposes, such as Title IX, can become bogged down with paperwork and an overwhelming caseload. A national documentation system would help with consistency — each university would have to follow the same set of steps in order to be able to document an incident, and instead of having paperwork all over the place, it would allow for a centralized system that is more consolidated.

It is possible that several of the systems out there are already digitized, as Baylor’s system is in part — they will send digitized versions of interview transcripts to those involved in cases. However, the purpose of a centralized system is so much more than simply internal digitization. If there was a national, centralized system, it could go even further than simply documenting information. With a centralized system of reporting and documenting incidents that fall under Title IX, hospitals could send SANE exam results directly to the Title IX office, police stations could include evidence reports and universities could flag student records so that an accused student could not simply transfer to avoid consequences. Currently, SANE exam results must be transferred to the university after being analyzed at a crime analysis laboratory, according to safeta.org. Evidence reports cannot be shared with Title IX and accused students can escape any responsibility by simply changing schools, since there is no database or consistent way to flag transfer applicants who may be involved in an ongoing Title IX investigation, according to a study published on the National Center of Biotechnology Information website.

There are several cases where accused sexual assailants have escaped academic consequence or resolution by transferring schools. According to ESPN, Brandon Austin, a basketball player who originally attended Providence College, has transferred schools twice in order to maintain game eligibility amid multiple allegations at both Providence College and the University of Oregon. He currently attends Northwest Florida State College on a basketball scholarship and has not participated in the resolution of the two sexual assault cases at his former universities.

Baylor itself welcomed tight end Sam Ukuwachu to the football team in 2013, a player who transferred from Boise State after his ex-girlfriend accused him of beating her. Once at Baylor, Ukuwachu was accused (and eventually convicted) of sexually assaulting a women’s soccer player. Had Baylor not let Ukuwachu transfer, or had the university acknowledged prior allegations against him, that assault would not have occurred.

The difficulty of this concept would be creating and enforcing a national database. Although there is the technology to do so, ensuring that it is up to date, easily navigated and available to all universities will take funding and effort that the Department of Education may not have. No matter how difficult the task may seem, the situation at hand is far too important to ignore.

Having a system that is efficient and effective is the least that those going to report a crime deserve. If the reporting process is difficult, tedious or ineffective, it could dissuade victims from reporting and justice from being found. The Department of Education should immediately begin planning for a database, so that hopefully by the time the next freshman class beings its college career, there will be reasonable hope for consistency, no matter what university a student attends.