Jennifer LaPorta, executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity and Title IX coordinator hosted an information session and conversation on Wednesday regarding Title IX and the measures The University is taking to combat sexual violence on campus.
“We are talking about changing culture in a real way,” LaPorta said.
Until this year, any sexual harassment or misconduct cases were referred to The Student Code of Conduct.
“This was an imperfect way to handle such emotional content,” LaPorta said.
The new process, implemented one year ago, begins with a full investigation, including individual interviews with all parties involved. Then, the investigator reports a summary of his or her findings. All names are removed from the report, and it is given to a three-person panel. From there, the panel determines whether there has been a violation of policy.
One of the major concerns discussed by students at the event regarded the responsible employee policy. Under the new enforcement of the law, counselors are the only on-campus confidential resource for students. All other employees of The University are considered responsible employees, and are therefore required to report all sexual harassment or misconduct.
“We want students to understand exactly what will happen when they go to a faculty or staff member to report sexual violence,” LaPorta said.
University students and staff in attendance expressed concern that the responsible employee policy might instill fear in students, leading to what LaPorta called “a chilling-effect,” where survivors of sexual violence become afraid to seek support at the risk of being reported.
Students also asked about events such as Take Back the Night and Campus Ministries retreats, all run by faculty and staff who under Title IX are considered responsible employees. Under Title IX, Take Back the Night is exempted from the duty to report, as it is a forum where confidentiality is expected. The University hopes to find a means to extend that exemption to cover retreats as well; however no solution has been determined yet.
LaPorta is confident that Title IX and The University’s initiatives to educate and train The University community will be well received.
“This community cares deeply about these issues,” LaPorta said.