U of M Board of Regents approves new sexual harassment policy

Amid a national conversation on sexual harassment, the University of Minnesota is taking a harder stance on the issue.

Friday, the Board of Regents approved a new policy that will require all U of M employees to report sexual harassment involving students.

“As we know this is a critically important topic for all parties involved and for our community as a whole,” said Regent Darrin Rosha.

Before the change, only supervisors and employees of authority could inform the university about reports of sexual misconduct.

“I think that it’s a very positive push, because what it does is center the survivor and makes sure that they feel safe during the entire process,” said Apporva Malarvannan of the Minnesota Student Association.

According to a 2015 report from the Association of American Universities, more than 23 percent of University of Minnesota Twin Cities female undergrads reported experiencing sexual assault. More than 47 percent dealt with sexual harassment and among those who experienced sexual assault, 25 percent of people reported it.

Though some critics say that the new policy may actually deter students from coming forward if they know a report would have to be filed with the university.

“What’s most important is prioritizing what the survivor wants in the case,” said Malarvannan.

The new policy includes implementing extensive training so that employees know how to better respond to those in need. The overall goal is to be a resource for victims in their time of need.

“There’s so much sexual harassment and a lot of time it’s misunderstood, and everyone has differing opinions and definitions of what they are, and I think it’s great shedding more light on that and making people aware,” said Casey Webber, a U of M student.

The new policy takes effect January 1.