Over the summer, Wesleyan made substantial changes to its Sexual Misconduct policies. While the administration has directed attention to certain major changes (e.g. the addition of an ombudsman, the elimination of hearings), the seemingly smaller changes to investigative procedures will prove to be equally impactful to the affected parties. Indeed, “the devil is in the details” has perhaps never been more appropriate, as the details of Wesleyan’s new investigative procedures should cause deep concern to the entire Wesleyan community.
A few major provisions in the new investigative procedures deserve attention. First, in lieu of a hearing, an investigator will create a written report to be reviewed by a panel. Alarmingly, part of the investigator’s report will contain “a separate section describing the Investigator’s assessment of the credibility of [the] parties.” In other words, Wesleyan is forcing survivors of sexual violence to read whether the investigator found their story credible.
Of course, credibility assessment is important when determining whether a responding party is responsible for committing a violation. However, there are already ways of assessing credibility in Wesleyan’s procedures that do not involve traumatizing survivors. For instance, the report will also contain a section identifying “relevant consistencies and inconsistencies” in survivors’ statements. Is this not effectively the same thing as credibility? Additionally, the panel is perfectly capable of sifting through facts to determine credibility. Dean Culliton himself has previously stated that the panel’s role is to “look at word on word credibility assessment.” If the investigator is both collecting facts and evaluating them, then the panel is nothing more than a rubber stamp. It is entirely unnecessary for a supposedly objective investigator to make a completely subjective credibility assessment, and will only serve to traumatize students and ultimately discourage complaints.
Another alarming provision involving the report is Section III-B, which states that parties can only “review” the investigative report and cannot take photographs or make copies.