Sexual Misconduct Hearings Are Modified
After nearly a year of collaboration between a committee of administrators and students, the University has published a revised version of its Sexual Misconduct and Assault policy. This policy, which falls under the Student Non-Academic Code of Conduct, is currently in effect.
Several modifications to the policy have been made, particularly concerning the makeup of the panel that hears sexual misconduct and assault cases. Previously, a panel of students, who were trained members of the Student Judicial Board (SJB), oversaw the case, unless the parties involved requested a joint committee of students and faculty members. Under the new system, the panel will consist solely of faculty members.
“We made this change because of the nature of sexual assault and violence, both for the survivor and the accused,” said Director of Health Education Lisa Currie, who worked on the committee. “Because of the very personal nature of these cases, [the student groups] requested more privacy.”
The committee also revised the policy’s language in an effort to clarify both terms and procedures. They rewrote or edited key phrases, deleted repetitive sections and even changed the title of the policy.
“Students felt that the term itself—the name of the policy—wasn’t clear,” Currie said. “‘Sexual misconduct’ is an umbrella term that includes, but is not limited to, intimidation, assault, stalking and rape. Subsequently, the ‘Sexual Misconduct Policy’ was renamed the ‘Sexual Misconduct and Assault Policy’.”
The revision process began last spring, when Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) representatives, in conjunction with members of Feminist Network (FemNet), began meeting regularly with administrators—including Currie, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton and Director of Student Activities & Leadership Development Tim Shiner—to discuss the University’s policy for sexual misconduct and assault.
Administrators hope that these changes will both increase awareness of sexual assault and better inform students as to where and how they may seek support.
“It is a difficult situation to begin with, and we don’t want to make it harder,” Currie said. “We want students to feel supported.”
Culliton agreed, noting that these changes make for a stronger policy.
“Sexual assault is a serious issue on college campuses and many assaults are alcohol related,” he said.“Everyone can take steps to reduce the likelihood that sexual assaults happen here at Wesleyan and everyone should know where to report an incident if it occurs.”
While many students pushed for the hiring of a dedicated staff member whose primary job would be to deal with issues of sexual assault, the University is unable to hire such personnel, given its precarious financial situation.
However, other projects to improve support for survivors are in the works. Students are currently working with Information Technology Services (ITS) to develop a website that will centralize information and resources about sexual assault. Additionally, a small group of faculty and staff are being trained to become part of a new Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
“The group will be trained on what’s out there to support a survivor of sexual violence, and on the dynamics of sexual violence so that they can provide a compassionate response,” Currie said.
Currie praised student initiative in pushing for policy changes on this important issue.
“This is my ninth year at Wesleyan, and this has felt like one of the most productive, collaborative experiences I’ve had with students,” she said.