Administration and Students Revise Sexual Misconduct Policy
By: Matthew Murphy
After two allegations of sexual misconduct on campus last semester, a spotlight was put on the issue of sexual assault and rape at Southwestern University. The administration and student body have been attempting to amend the sexual misconduct policies on campus and start programs that educate the student body on the issue. Although the administration is in high hopes, some of the student body feels the changes are not enough.
Last semester, the Title IX Compliance Committee and The Sexual Misconduct Policy Task Force updated the SU Sexual Misconduct Policy. These groups consist of students, faculty members, and administrators who work together to keep the policy updated and reader friendly. These groups also updated a pamphlet “The Yellow Book: Help for Sexual Assault/Sexual Misconduct,” to make it accessible to more readers.
Jamie Woody, Director of Residence Life, assures that “the entire [SU Sexual Misconduct Policy] has been reviewed, grown, improved and made more comprehensive. Our policy was compliant but it’s even better.”
In regards to the policy, the definition of consent has been changed, the beginning statement broadened, the rights of the Complainant and the Respondent expanded, and the appeal process expanded. The policy now explains the differences in disclosure and reporting.
The appeal board for cases of sexual misconduct now includes three people– the vice president of student life reviews the appeal in conjunction with two members of the sexual misconduct hearing board pool. Previously, only the Vice President of Student Life, previously Jerry Brody, reviewed and made a decision on the appeal. The Complainant and Respondent have the right to see who is on the appeal board and the sexual misconduct hearing board and speak out if they see any conflict of interest.
“It’s better to have a team looking at what actually went down, especially when the hearing board is a team as well,” Member of the Sexual Misconduct Policy Task Force Katie Morgan said. “So, it doesn’t make sense for the hearing to be looked over by a team but then the appeal to be looked over by one person.”
Members of the Southwestern community drafted a list of demands, for the administration, last semester in response to the druggings. These students say that some of their demands have been met, some have not. One stressed but unmet demand that is the in-statement of a zero tolerance policy. A zero tolerance policy would mean that if a Respondent has been found at fault, then that person would be expelled from Southwestern.
“As of now, perpetrators can theoretically stay on campus even with [being found at fault] on their record, and I see no reason for that to continue,” Co-chair of SU Planned Piratehood (SUPP), Rachel Holm said.
“I don’t really understand why there isn’t currently a zero tolerance policy. I don’t understand why that’s something that people are dragging their feet on so consistently, because a zero tolerance policy, to me, seems so common sense.” Kira Strzepa, president of SUPP, said. “They’re not even going to be taking on, theoretically, a zero tolerance policy, and they might eventually, hopefully, fingers crossed, but they haven’t done it yet.”
There has been more than policy changes relating to the issue of sexual assault on campus. “Serenade”, a greek life tradition, has been stopped because it was perceived as problematic and contributed to rape culture on campus.
There are now posters around campus that give examples of what is, or is not, consent. There have been other new educational programs started on campus such as Beat the Blame Game, more safety talks for sports teams and residence halls, bystander intervention training, and TIPS Training, training for any organizations that serve alcohol.
In addition, Student Life separated the Dean of Students and the Director of Residence Life positions, both previously held by Woody. This split entails inviting two, rather than one, pair of eyes to investigative process for cases of sexual assault and rape on campus.
Some students and administrators believe that these new programs and changes in policy, as positive as they may be, are only the beginning of the work Southwestern needs to do on this issue.
“The changes are happening, they need to keep on happening. It needs to be a complete cultural change,” Morgan said. “Changing policies doesn’t completely change the culture. We do have a serious problem with our rape culture on this campus, and people are afraid to come forward if this does happen to them. That’s not okay. But changing the policies and trying to make it easier for students to speak out in regards to these issues is a way to start changing the cultural context of this.”