Sexual misconduct policy implemented

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Author: Hannah Fishbein

President Jonathan Veitch announced in a Feb. 4 email to the Occidental community that the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility and Misconduct (CCSRM) had finalized the Title IX sexual misconduct policy that would replace the interim sexual misconduct policy adopted in 2013.

The most significant difference between the interim policy and the current policy is the adoption of an investigative model, according to Veitch’s email. With the investigative model, one or two investigators review the case and gather information from both the complainant and the respondent to determine whether the policy was violated. The old policy used the hearing model, in which investigators would produce a report that would guide a hearing in which an adjudicator would ask the complainant, respondent and witnesses questions.

Brian Erickson (senior), who was appointed to the CCSRM committee by Associated Students of Occidental College Senate because of his work with Project SAFE in January 2015, said he believes the new investigative model is promising and will ensure a more equitable review process for the complainant and the respondent, in addition to respecting the experiences of both parties.

“One of the biggest issues with the old policy was that students (particularly survivors) found the hearing format stressful and triggering,” Erickson said via email. “I believe the investigative model will make the process slightly less daunting and resultantly more likely to get to the truth.”

The revised policy was based off recommendations in the October 2014 Pepper Hamilton report, current state and federal legislation concerning sexual misconduct and input from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and a number of Occidental groups, according to Veitch’s Feb. 4 email.

Occidental commissioned the Pepper Hamilton group as external consultants in March 2013 to assess the policies and procedures regarding sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. During this period of review, Pepper Hamilton issued a series of recommendations, which included the creation of an independent Title IX Office led by a Title IX Coordinator, hiring a survivors’ advocate, reviewing existing policies and developing a complete sexual misconduct policy that applied to students and faculty. The Pepper Hamilton group also suggested expanding sexual misconduct training and educational programming as well as creating an anonymous suggestion box to receive community feedback. As a result of Pepper Hamilton’s review, Occidental implemented a “Comprehensive Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy.”

The revised policy replaced the 2013 interim policy with the help of CCSRM’s review of recommendations from the 2013–14 Sexual Misconduct Advisory Board as well as feedback received from public Q&A sessions in October and anonymous comments made on an online feedback form. CCSRM is composed of representatives from Project SAFE, the Dean of Student’s office, Campus Safety, Financial Aid and various academic departments including sociology, psychology and Critical Theory and Social Justice.

The revision process, spearheaded by CCSRM and Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones, was a collaborative effort. Erickson described the experience as a “snowball process” in which Jones consulted the committee on drafts and ideas about the policy.

“Sometimes we would hash things out quickly, and other times it would take weeks,” Erickson said via email. “There was also ample opportunity for members of the committee to express concerns that they had with the policy (or that they had heard expressed) and navigate through solutions.”

Jones expressed her commitment to improving the relationship between students and the administration. Through “meet and greets” with students, as well as sexual misconduct and Title IX trainings with student organizations and offices on campus, Jones hopes to familiarize members of the community with her office.

“Most people come to the Title IX office when they’re in trouble,” Jones said. “It’s much more difficult to come to the Title IX office if you’ve never met the Title IX coordinator. Part of my objective is to get as much in person interaction so that students know someone that they can come to when they’re in trouble.”

Erickson said that the revised policy will take time to prove itself effective and gain the trust of the Occidental student body.

“The real measure of the policy will be whether or not people think it’s fairer, so it’s too early to say with certainty whether or not it will be successful,” Erickson said via email.

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