Alaska

U of Alaska agrees to resolve sex harassment, assault issues

The University of Alaska system has agreed to resolve issues stemming from a federal review of its handling of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.

The agreement, signed by system President Jim Johnsen on Friday and released Monday, outlines steps the system will need to take over the next several years. It follows a review, initiated in 2014, by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Johnsen, in a letter to the university community, said the system did not enter into the agreement grudgingly and is dedicated to improving the climate and safety on campuses.

The review included 274 sexual harassment and sexual assault files from 2011 to mid-2015, Johnsen said in his letter. He characterized the issues cited in the agreement as ranging from "very serious failures to minor documentation issues."

The agreement calls for the system to reassess 23 cases to see if there were failings in the university response that should now be addressed and to revise policies and grievance procedures for complaints concerning sex discrimination, among other things. Johnsen told reporters the system has already begun undertaking some of the steps, acting to fix problems identified in a separate review of its own.

"We've done a lot, but it's not enough," he said during a teleconference call. The system is still working to improve how it responds to, investigates and resolves campus sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, he said.

The Office of Civil Rights is expected to release soon its formal findings, which Johnsen said will contain more detail about specific cases.

Universities around the country have been or currently are under similar review, he said.