Sexual Offense Policy Task Force Lays Out Guidelines for Reforming Policy in Fall

Adiel Kaplan, Staff Writer

The Sexual Offense Policy task Force announced plans to revise Oberlin College’s Sexual Offense Policy this fall. The announcement came at an All Campus Discussion held Wednesday at noon.

This was the first mention of a timeline, however rough, for changing the college’s policy, and was part of the task force’s presentation of their preliminary findings since their appointment late last semester.

The discussion began with a presentation by the members of the task force explaining their methods of analysis, findings and future plans, after which the discussion was delegated to student moderators from the Oberlin College Dialogue Center. In the discussion, students, faculty and community members were given a chance to request clarification on various aspects of the committee’s presentation, as well as express concern over particular issues they thought might not have been addressed in enough detail.

The task force found several opportunities for implementing change, such as expanding support and remedies available to survivors, revising and clarifying the current policy, reviewing and coordinating campus wide education and improving the reporting process.

Their proposal would make several changes to the current policy:

  • It will be rewritten in more accessible language and include a clear definition of consent, which the current policy does not have.
  • It will shorten the length of the adjudication process by including of the length of the investigation timeline and providing mechanisms to address Winter Term and summer recess.
  • It will provide greater transparency through statistics and information about types of cases and disciplinary actions taken in cases, while protecting individual privacy.
  • It will integrate greater attention to current and former intimate partner violence, stalking, online harassment and LGBTQ and same-gender concerns.
  • It will determine how to appropriately fill hearing panels with impartial panelists who are well trained in the dynamics of sexualized violence.

The task force will take community feedback into account before presenting their report to President Krislov in June. In the fall, they plan to continue conversations on policy revision with various groups on campus such as Student Senate, student unions and the faculty and staff councils. The task force will also report their plan for implementation of new support, education and prevention processes to the community. Later in the fall semester, the final policy will be voted on by the general faculty and if the policy passes, it will be implemented.

The task force says they will start employing new prevention, support and education processes as soon as possible. However, the timeline for the policy itself is much longer due to the fact that the task force does not have the final say over what will be approved.

Alicia Dudziak, College senior and task force member, emphasized these specific methods of change in an e-mail to the Review, saying, “Training and education are central to the task force’s plans and our vision of a campus free of violence and discrimination. Training and education needs to include students, faculty and staff [and] must also happen on multiple levels, […] on supporting people who have experienced or are experiencing sexualized violence.”

One issue that came up several times during the discussion Wednesday was that of the “Duty to Report” policy, which is governed by Ohio laws and states that anybody who is aware of an incident of sexualized violence has a duty to report it to the College­­.

“The fear is that if you do report you get pulled into a disciplinary process … so that it feels like a way of actually taking away control from survivors and that’s very problematic,” explains Meredith Raimondo, co-chair of the task force and associate professor of Comparative American Studies. “What we want to clarify is [that] what happens when somebody reports is that the Title IX coordinator … will assess that person’s needs, make sure that they’re informed of the full range of support resources and talk to them about their options, including pursuing formal process. But that is not something the person would have to decide to or commit to at that time, as long as there is no immediate threat to campus community or public safety,” said Raimondo.

The task force’s biggest goals are as follows:

  • Revise the current Policy.
  • Restructure staffing of Title IX compliance to a network or team-oriented approach by separating the duties of the disciplinary process from that of the Title IX coordinator and giving them a more managerial roll in task force coordination.
  • Develop clearer coordination and greater resources for training and coordination, including collaborations with Lorain County Rape Crisis.
  • Make available transparent and accessible data that respects confidentiality.

The task force hopes to expand peer education on campus and is looking to the OSCA Sexual Offense Policy Advocates as a model for similar organizations across campus. They also want to develop a post-hearing process to provide greater support to those involved after the proceedings have concluded and decisions have been made.

Kayla Emrick, College senior and Sexual Information Center staffer who attended the presentation on Wednesday, said, “The Task Force has been doing some great work, and I’m excited to see how their findings will be applied in concrete changes to the Sexual Offense Policy.”