The University of Maryland has had an office dedicated to handling Title IX complaints for two years. Starting next fall, it looks as though that office will be supported by a mandatory student fee, the first of its kind in the nation.
BuzzFeed News reports that the director of the Title IX office, Catherine Carroll, claims that there are too many complaints of sexual misconduct for her staff to handle, and they need money to expand. She says, “My people are burned out.” It now takes around 140 business days to complete an investigation, which Carroll believes is “unacceptable.” It sounds like she can neither expand the office’s reach, nor keep up with its obligations:
[Carroll] said the office was too understaffed to launch additional anti-rape efforts on top of the required compliance training for university employees.
“In all honesty, I hesitate to put that out there that this is where you come if you’re experiencing discrimination and want to file a complaint, because we have a limited capacity to respond,” she said.
In its first year, the office budget was $643,000, which grew to over a million in its second. That is apparently not enough, and so a $34 fee was proposed to the Student Government Association, who approved it, and are waiting to see if school administrators will let it go through. Though it was an unpopular measure (as indicated by a recent editorial in the school paper lambasting the change), SGA representatives felt was necessary due to the lack of response from the university administration.
“The university has failed in their responsibility to fully fund this office,” said SGA’s vice president A.J. Pruitt, who proposed the measure on behalf of SGA’s executive board. “By putting in a proposal to add an additional fee — that’s placing another financial burden on students. It’s not something I’m excited about, but it gets us to fully funding the office in a short amount of time.”
BuzzFeed News checked with The National Center for Campus Public Safety and the Clery Center for Security On Campus, and the University of Maryland is the only college they know of that is charging their students to specifically handle their sexual assault cases. The fee will generate around $900,000 annually, and allow Carroll to fully fund her office—if the school doesn’t cough up the cost themselves.