Campus / News / May 14, 2014

RAs discuss concerns with mandatory reporting

As Title IX discussion continues on campus, the issue surrounding mandatory reporting has maintained prominence, especially as it pertains to resident advisors.

Despite President Teresa Amott’s recent email that reaffirmed all college faculty and staff’s obligation to be mandatory reporters, RAs have been placed in a precarious position.

“I’ve noticed my residents haven’t come to talk to me … it just makes a big wall between us and our residents,” RA and junior Andrea Blasini Hernandez said.

The relationship she’s formed with her residents throughout the year, she said, is now “strained.”

“You’re conflicted with your own feelings. You’re breaking the trust of the person you’re talking to and we shouldn’t have to be put in that situation,” she said.

She’s not the only one – at a recent RA meeting surrounding Title IX reporting, many RAs expressed concern over mandatory reporting and the difficulties that revolve around the obligation.

“It makes me angry … We as RAs should not have to do this. We have a confidential contract with our students and we shouldn’t have to break that,” Blasini Hernandez said.

The concept of students as mandatory reporters doesn’t stop in the suite area: RAs are mandatory reporters in all settings, which limits their liberty to participate in certain activities on campus.

“I’m a mandatory reporter for everyone. Being in certain clubs … you do have these difficult conversations where all you do is talk about sexual assault and I feel like I can’t be part of the club fully because I’m limiting the conversations in the room, because I have to. But I don’t want to,” Blasini Hernandez said.

“If you’re big into these issues and you can’t go to safe spaces because your very presence eradicates the safety of that space, that’s a problem,” sophomore and RA Adrian Secter said.

Secter’s position on mandatory reporting, however, is different. Because RAs aren’t paid hourly wages and hold the only 24-hour job on campus, Secter believes it’s necessary to maintain RAs as mandatory reporters.

“From a legal perspective we never punch out, and we live in areas that statistically speaking, chances are extremely good that is where an incident of sexual assault is likely to occur, versus the cafeteria or the lawns or something. The residential setting is usually where it occurs,” he said. “I think RAs as mandatory reporters follows the law. Are there problems with that? Sure.”

The concept of mandatory reporting, he says, is a necessary one.

“The question is not up to us as RAs to decide mandatory reporting, and it’s not up to the school. It’s a conversation that takes place at the federal level,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of not lashing out against administration for having put RAs in a difficult position.

“The fight shouldn’t be students versus administration. It should be students and administration versus rape culture,” he said.

Amott’s email indicated possible alterations to the mandatory reporting rule that may take effect after the OCR’s visit to campus, but in the meantime, RAs are seen as invaluable sources on campus that are required to be mandatory reporters.

“It’s challenging and we can see both sides of the story,” Assistant Director of Student Activities and Engagement Travis Greenlee said. “I think it does put [RAs] in a difficult spot, but I think what we’re trying to do as an institution is É hopefully make our campus more safe.”

Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @KateMishkin

Tags:  mandatory reporting resident advisor Teresa Amott title ix

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