Lawmakers Step Up for University Sex Victims

In the aftermath of a high-profile lawsuit accusing Oregon Health & Science University of fostering a culture permissive toward sexual abusers while punishing victims, on May 10 Senate Joint Resolution 30 was introduced by Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer.  

In the lawsuit against OHSU, settled in April for $585,000, several professors including Dr. Esther Choo, who is a national spokesperson against discrimination against women, were found complacent in the face of sexual harassment reports. A part of the issue was that OHSU offered to pay the victim in the case $6,000 for mental health treatment in exchange for dropping her lawsuit.  

Senate Joint Resolution 30 would establish a Joint Committee on Respectful and Safe University Campuses to investigate policies of Oregon’s public universities, and how they handle complaints and treat victims. The committee would be able to subpoena witnesses and documents and hold public hearings. The power of scrutiny with which the committee would investigate our seven universities would not extend to private colleges, such as Lindfield College where the president Miles Davies was accused of sexual misconduct and anti-Semitism, and is being pressured to resign.  

Oregon State University has recently been in the news because its former president, F. King Alexander, was forced to resign for complacency toward sexual harassment at Louisiana State University where he previously served. Also, in March a former dean of OSU’s College of Pharmacy filed a lawsuit accusing the administration of retaliating against her following her reports of student’s concerns regarding sexual harassment and racial discrimination. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and Kayse Jama, D-Portland. House Representatives Christiane Drazan, R-Canby, and Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, supported the bill.  

“As lawmakers, we have to take responsibility for ensuring our campuses are safe for everyone,” Gelser said. “This legislation will help restore some of that trust.” 

By Joanna Rosińska