Faculty makes temporary changes to sexual misconduct policy

As part of the Violence against Women Act, renewed in 2013, the federal government has implemented the Campus Sexual Violence Act, requiring college campuses across the country to reevaluate internal policies and meet several new requirements by Oct. 1. In an effort to meet these criteria, at the Sept. 17 faculty meeting, College administrators announced several new regulatory standards concerning faculty and staff workplace sexual misconduct and relationships between faculty and students.

The national law expands the definition of crimes that colleges are required to report, requires specific student discipline protocols and entails efforts to prevent campus sexual violence. Since the reauthorization of the law in March, an interim committee, made up of deans and faculty, has been working on a proposal for campus changes.

The interim policies have not yet been made public. According to Professor Cathy Johnson, the representative from the Faculty Steering Committee, the temporary policies will remain in place until the faculty can enact permanent changes. This year, a group will work on drafting these policies with the goal of proposing them to the faculty in the spring of 2015.

At the faculty meeting, members of the committee announced three main changes. According to Dean Bolton, who sat on the committee, the College made two policy changes and one process change.

First, the committee reexamined College policy regarding student-faculty and inter-faculty relationships. Under the new policy, even if consent is given, the figure of authority will be held responsible if a sexual harassment suit is filed.

The second change prohibits faculty from taking on any responsibilities or positions that involve working with any member of the campus community with whom they have had or continue to have a sexual relationship.

The final process change concerns the complaint process for students about a faculty or staff member. Similar to changes made last year with regards to students reporting other students, this policy change requires that professionals unaffiliated with the College complete the investigation. The new appeal process will be kept private and will not require students to share their case with other students or with members of the faculty while their case is being adjudicated.

“Thus, this process incorporates the work we did with students over the past years to create improved processes,” Bolton said.

Beyond the revision of policies regarding relationships between faculty members, the national law also stresses the importance of compiling comprehensive reports on the numbers and natures of sexual assault. In accordance with the law, colleges must follow a set of procedures after the accusation that adheres to a standard of evidence. The standard of proof is less strict than in a criminal or civil case; instead, for the school to take disciplinary action, the infraction must be considered more likely to have occurred than not.

The new provisions don’t just seek to change the way we define sexual harassment, misconduct and assault, but also the ways the college addresses them, according to Bolton. Given the renewed focus on sexual assault on college campuses, the College has focused on providing resources for students and faculty to use that help direct survivors towards the best resources available to them, both in the immediate aftermath and the subsequent proceedings.

The Violence Against Women Act includes instructions for institutions dealing with students is to create systems of education and awareness events to best prepare the campus for potential threats and consequences. The College has a first-year awareness program, which includes mandatory education sessions that serve as a backdrop for students first entering the college environment. Other resources for first-year students include Junior Advisers and the bystander training that students are taught within the first weeks of their college life.