After two weeks of students calling for changes to the way the school addresses sexual assault, Gonzaga University's Title IX coordinator, who handles all reports of sexual assault on campus, has resigned.
The school's human resources department confirmed that Sarah Green resigned Wednesday and "has left the university," but would not provide any more details. Green's voicemail now directs callers to the assistant director of human resources, Gretchen Stoup, who will temporary fill the job.
Eric Baldwin, who oversees student conduct and counseling as the dean of student well being and healthy living, said he found out about Green's resignation today and has "absolutely no context" about why she left.
Leaders of the student group that's been organizing on campus — we wrote about them this week here — say they found out about Green's departure when they were told she wouldn't be attending a panel discussion tonight being put on by the student group Students Advocating Sexual Health Awareness. The students were also given "absolutely no details" about her resignation, but quickly emailed Baldwin to ask for student involvement in the hiring of her replacement.
"There's a general feeling of we don’t really trust the administration. We've seen people be silenced, we've seen things mishandled, and we want to have a stronger voice in how things are dealt with to restore trust," says Meg Besch, one of the leaders of the student movement. "Having a voice in hiring the person creating the policies that keep us safe or don’t keep us safe is something that needs to happen."
Baldwin says he will lobby the administration to involve students as a search for Green's replacement begins. Meanwhile, he says, his office will continue to work with them on the changes they hope to see to the way the school handles reports of sexual assault and supports survivors. The hiring of a new counselor and changes to the counseling intake process have decreased wait times for students in need of those services, he says. (Students complained that they had previously been asked to wait two months for counseling. As of today, there are no students on the wait list for counseling appointments, according to Baldwin.) The school is also close to finalizing a contract with nonprofit Lutheran Community Services to provide a victim advocate on campus. A victim advocate, unlike a Title IX employee, is not required to report instances of sexual assault if the victim doesn't want to report or wants to do so anonymously. Anyone hired by the university is subject to Title IX rules, but using a contract would allow an exemption for Lutheran's employees and a new resource on campus for students who've experienced sexual assault. Baldwin says he expects that contract to be finalized by next week.
Along with those changes, the students are still calling for more, including an on-campus survivors' support group and harsher penalties for students found to have committed sexual assault. Besch, the student leader, says her group met once with Green and she seemed open to their ideas, but "we don't feel like [her resignation is] going to hurt our momentum."
"That's not something we're going to allow to happen," Besch says. "We're going to keep pushing to get the changes we think we need here."
OUTLANDER serves as a weekly round up of Inland Northwest outdoor recreation and natural resources news. This feature will highlight a wide variety of issues and events, ranging from camping stories to national environmental disputes. We’ll also try to include some scenic photos. Feel free to pass along suggestions or curiosities that celebrate the Great Outdoors.
Just a week short of Thanksgiving, Spokane finally gets its first dusting of snow for the season. Check out Snowlander for information on local ski resorts and other inspiration for making the most of it.
In related news, the state parks commission this morning approved a ski area expansion at Mt. Spokane that drew sharp opposition from local conservationists. (KHQ) Who spoke against it last night. (KXLY)
Also, some quick tips for getting your skis in shape for the season. (Outside)
And advice for snowshoeing like a pro. (Backpacker)
Moving on from winter sports, wildlife officials ask for misdemeanor charges in the killing of a wolf in Whitman County. (NWSportsman)
If you're missing summer angling, check out this travel feature on Spokane's rewarding urban flyfishing. (NW Flyfishing)
Renovation work will make the popular Tubbs Hill trail wheelchair accessible. (SR)
Check out a new recreation plan for the Snoqualmie Pass area and offer feedback by Dec. 19. (DNR)
Washington-based research shows stormwater can kill salmon in a matter of hours. (AP)
So maybe consider going out to clean up along the Spokane River this Saturday with Gonzaga. (Riverkeeper)
A new investigation also shows how Boeing has opposed clean up efforts in Washington's Duwamish River. (INVW)
The state Attorney General's Office plans to sue the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to bolster worker safety protections. (AGO)
Meanwhile environmental groups have sued to protect habitat for the lynx, which includes portions of Northeast Washington. (Conservation Northwest)
Montana researchers looking for a better understanding of how hunters and bears interact. (Billings Gazette)
Researchers and video effects provide vivid explanation of how herds move across protected wilderness in Wyoming. (Biodiversity Institute)
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline this week by a single vote. (CNN)
But India's coal rush could tip climate change. (NYT)
Just as NOAA confirms this year has seen five record warm months. (AP)
And industrial pollution is turning Canadian lakes into jelly. So we can look forward to that. (WaPost)
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart has agreed to a deal with the city's ethics committee over a complaint that he violated the ethics code by forwarding a confidential email to the president of the local fire union.
The committee found that it had the jurisdiction and initial evidence to hold a full hearing on the complaint, but allowed Stuckart to agree to a "stipulation," acknowledging he committed the violation and paying a $250 fine instead of facing a hearing, says Mike Piccolo, the city council's attorney.
Stuckart tells the Inlander he proposed the $250, which is “not going to break my bank, but is a fine nonetheless that I deserve to pay.” He says he doesn’t think the agreement will affect his relationship with the administration or any future elections.
In the more than seven years since the city's ethics code was passed and the committee was created to hear possible violations, no one has been found guilty of a violation or had to pay a fine like the one Stuckart has agreed to, Piccolo says.
The complaint against Stuckart was forwarded to the committee by City Attorney Nancy Isserlis last month. Specifically, she said Stuckart and other council members received an email from Assistant City Attorney Erin Jacobson about the course of legal action the city would take after losing a case in which the local fire union challenged the city's reorganization of the fire department, and Stuckart forwarded that email to Don Waller, the president of Local 29.
Isserlis wrote in her complaint that she "believe[d] Mr. Stuckart was aware he was forwarding confidential information to the party opposing the City in pending litigation." She said she discovered the forwarded email while looking into a separate complaint from Waller about a budget action.
When Isserlis forwarded the issue to the committee, Stuckart admitted to sending the email and apologized, but said it was nothing that wasn't already "common knowledge in the press or wasn’t already argued in the court case."
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