A Letter to the Campus Community
To the Occidental Community:
As promised on May 1, we are delivering the interim sexual misconduct policies and procedures that will be in effect for the 2013-14 academic year.
The development of the interim policy is an expression of the College’s commitment to fostering a climate free from sexual harassment and misconduct through clear and effective policies, a coordinated education and prevention program, easily accessible mechanisms for reporting, and prompt and equitable procedures for resolution of complaints. This interim policy is one of many steps that demonstrate the College’s commitment to this issue. Others include the national search for a dedicated Title IX Coordinator, the hiring of a full-time survivor advocate, the creation of the Oxy Assault and Advocacy Response Team, and the continuing public dialogue about these important issues.
Drafted with the assistance of Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez, the outside experts we brought in to assess our existing policies and procedures, this new umbrella policy is consistent with the latest thinking about effective practices on campuses across the country, as well as recent legislation and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. It is also drawn from the contributions of many Oxy community members, including the Sexual Assault Task Force, Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC), Occidental Men Against Rape, ASOC, and many other students, faculty, parents and alumni. The policy has also benefited from the candid input received through the anonymous online suggestion box at https://oxy.qualtrics.com/SE/?
Like many colleges and universities, Occidental had previously treated sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in separate policies: a sexual misconduct policy that applied to students and a harassment policy that applied to the entire community, including faculty, students, and staff. Our new interim policy combines these two into a single umbrella policy. This decision was based on a number of factors: the way federal law defines sexual assault as a form of harassment, advice from the Department of Education, and a desire to apply policy consistently to all members of the Oxy community on an issue that affects everyone. We believe a universal policy will be easier for everyone to understand, to access, and to administer.
The interim policy is supplemented by specific procedures for the resolution of a report of sexual harassment or misconduct against students, found in Appendix A. Procedures for resolving complaints against faculty or staff will continue to be handled according to current practices. A focus of our work this fall will be to draft, with community input, specific procedures for resolving complaints against staff and faculty.
This interim policy recognizes the importance of respect for the autonomy and agency of a survivor, ease of access to reporting, a balanced approach to protect individual and community safety, and a commitment to fairness and equity. Key to this approach is a centralized process that begins with an initial assessment by the Title IX Coordinator and trained administrators and the ability to pursue either a formal disciplinary or “informal” remedies-based resolution process, expanding the College’s ability to respond to misconduct in a manner consistent with our Title IX responsibilities.
Highlights of the interim policy include:
- Clarification of the difference between confidential resources (support is provided, but information is not shared with others) and reporting options (information is shared with a small group of people to allow for resolution)
- Clear guidance about reporting options, on and off campus
- Expanded discussion of resources, including interim measures and accommodations available to all community members
- Increased protection through expanded definitions of sexual harassment and sexual assault and more specific forms of prohibited conduct, including harm to others and stalking
- Refined and expanded definitions of consent, coercion and incapacitation
- A commitment to encouraging bystander engagement and intervention
- Amnesty provisions for personal use of alcohol and drugs to encourage reporting
- Time frames for all major stages of investigation and resolution
These changes are part of several positive steps toward making sure every community member feels safe and valued. To make the interim policy as accessible as possible, we will be following up with a path diagram/decision tree and an FAQ to help guide community members through the process. You can find the interim policy and other important information at
This interim policy will be in effect for the 2013-2014 academic year, a time frame we will use to continue to ensure that our practices are responsive to the needs of our community. The new Sexual Misconduct Advisory Board is charged with reaching out to the Oxy community, listening to your comments and feedback, and making recommendations for changes to the interim policy for the following year. This board will be comprised of two faculty members appointed by the Faculty Council, Mary Christianakis and Donna Maeda of CTSJ; two students to be appointed by ASOC; and two staff members, the Title IX coordinator and Robin Davidson, director of the Emmons Student Wellness Center. I am grateful to all committee members for taking on such important work that will benefit all of us. I look forward to a thoughtful discussion about the interim policies and procedures as we try to balance best practices, legal requirements, and Oxy’s unique needs.
On the personnel and support front, we continue to move forward with hiring a permanent Title IX coordinator. We are exploring the pros and cons of using an outside investigator. We are still building our year-round prevention education and training programs. And there is much more, including deepening our community partnerships and increasing campus awareness of the interim policy.
I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Irene Girton, who worked tirelessly all summer to help Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez deliver this policy and establish the role of Title IX coordinator in its new form.
Finally, one small but important point: the new interim policy and procedures will not apply to complaints filed under the old policy. The interim policy and procedures will be applied to all reports, formal, informal, and anonymous, received after August 23, 2013.
I will continue to keep you up to date on these and other efforts as we move ahead in our effort to make Oxy a national leader on this issue.
August 23, 2013
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