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College operating under new sexual assault policy

Mariah Joyce

News Editor

Additional reporting by Senior News Writer Mary Jeffries

As of Oct. 1, the College is operating under a new sexual assault policy fashioned after the “One Policy, One Process” model policy the College received courtesy of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) in the spring of 2013. Among other things, the revised policy removes any possibility of student involvement in hearings about sexual assault, and allows both the complainant and the respondent an advisor during the hearing process.

According to Secretary of the College and Title IX Coordinator Angela Johnston, these changes were set in motion after a four-day Title IX Coordinator and Administrator training offered by ATIXA following the Department of Education’s changes to the standards of Title IX with regards to sex discrimination. The changes also arrived in anticipation of new regulations effective as of Oct. 1 of this year.

“We came back to Wooster knowing that we would need to train more faculty and staff on campus to meet these requirements,” said Johnston.

In June of 2013, Johnston organized a Title IX Investigator Training and Certification that was well received; according to Johnston, not only did at least 20 faculty and staff from the College attend, over 200 people from 23 other organizations also made an appearance.

The “One Policy, One Process” model the College received typically costs $2,500 and “permits all discrimination complaints … to be resolved using one institution-wide policy and one stand-alone resolution process, applied to all complaints involving faculty, students and staff,” according to Johnston. A discrimination complaint consists of any discrimination on the basis of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, etc.

During the fall of the 2013-14 year, the College’s legal representation read through the policy and carefully brought it into compliance with both Ohio law and best practice for the College, according to Johnston.

The first half of the model policy was then reviewed during the spring semester of 2014, according to Campus Council (CC) President Elliot Wainwright ’15. CC approved the Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Non-Discrimination policy, and the College officially adopted it as of last April.

Johnston, Wainwright and Director of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement (CDGE) Nancy Grace all agree that a key difference in the new policy is the change in student involvement in sexual assault hearings.

Previously, the policy permitted a complainant to go through the Dean’s Hearing Board or the Judicial Board in any non-discrimination case, including those involving sexual assault, according to Grace.

While Grace said that most complainants chose the Dean’s Hearing Board because no students sit on it (unlike Judicial Board), the new policy eliminates any possibility of students hearing cases involving sexual assault.

“It is my opinion, and generally that of Judicial Committee, that students, rightfully, shouldn’t be hearing sexual assault cases,” said Wainwright.

Johnston agreed, saying that a key feature of the new policy was to “take adjudication of student sexual assault cases out of the student judicial process so students do not hear cases involving the sexual assault of their peers.”

Instead, while Wainwright says the policy is still under editing in committee, “in its current state [it] includes an ‘equity grievance panel’ comprised of faculty, staff and administration which would take charge of intake and initial counseling of complaints, mediation when appropriate, [and] acting as advisors … to those involved in complaints.”

Additionally, as of Oct. 1, both complainants and respondents are permitted to have an advisor present during hearings and meetings related to the complaint in question; while these advisors are permitted to confer with their advisee, they are not permitted to directly address the hearing panel.

The policy has been passed and implemented in a preliminary state for the time being. Wainwright added that CC will be holding open sessions and collecting feedback from the student body on the new grievance process before the new policy is fully passed through CC and sent to President Grant Cornwell for approval.

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