Sexual Misconduct FAQs
Since I arrived at Occidental at the end of February, I have spent as much time as possible listening to students, faculty, parents, and staff. Again and again, I have heard a desire for more information to understand how the College has responded to sexual misconduct and what we’re doing to improve that response.
The result is this webpage about the Title IX Office. It is intended to be the source of information about the Title IX office and all of the steps we are taking to make sure our students are safe and respected. As a work in progress, it will be updated regularly. Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve heard most often and links to some other relevant sites.
--Ruth Jones, Title IX Coordinator
What does sexual assault have to do with Title IX?
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. That requires Oxy and other colleges to strive to prevent sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and domestic violence. Since all of these problems can interfere with a student’s ability to pursue his or her education, Title IX requires us to address, prevent and remedy these issues. This task also is consistent with Occidental’s institutional values and our fundamental responsibility to ensure the safety of all of our students.
What does the Title IX coordinator do?
I am responsible for responding to complaints of sex discrimination including allegations of discrimination in programs and activities, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. While a major part of my work deals with student sexual misconduct, it is not my only responsibility. I also address sex discrimination as it relates to faculty and staff. As a full-time Title IX coordinator, I spend all of my time working on these issues, assessing what’s working, what’s not, and making necessary improvements. My job is to get up every day and think about how to make things better at Occidental.
How many cases of sexual misconduct occur at Oxy?
Each year Oxy publishes what is known as a Clery Report, a federally mandated report of major crimes, including particular forms of sexual misconduct, that have occurred on and near campus during the calendar year. Oxy reported 25 forcible sex offenses in 2010, 11 in 2011, and 7 in 2012. The report for 2013 is due Oct. 1, 2014.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Clery report covers only incidents that occur on campus, on streets and sidewalks immediately adjacent to campus, and on property owned or controlled by the College or owned or controlled by student organizations recognized by the College. Each year there are additional cases investigated by the Title IX office that, by law, are not included in the Clery Report.
What are your plans to ensure the community has accurate figures on the nature and number of cases of sexual assaults on campus?
We are in the process of hiring a full-time Clery reporting coordinator in our Campus Safety Office. In addition, we will be installing specialized software that will enhance our ability to record, track and report sexual misconduct cases. At the same time, we hope to foster a sense of confidence in the entire process so that more survivors come forward and report.
Oxy will launch an additional report next year on the aggregate disposition of cases handled by the Title IX office, regardless of whether they are covered by Clery Act reporting requirements. Because sexual misconduct is an underreported problem everywhere, we also will conduct a campus climate survey during the 2014-15 academic year to try to gain a more accurate picture of what is happening on our campus.
What is Oxy doing to support survivors?
The focus of our efforts is making sure that survivors have support, whether or not they decide to participate in a disciplinary process. Regardless of which path they choose, we can provide survivors with academic and residential accommodations, plus medical and counseling services. I work with every unit in the College – from housing to facilities -- to ensure that each survivor receives the accommodations and support that works best for them.
Who is in charge of sexual misconduct cases at Oxy?
The Title IX Office is responsible for processing sexual misconduct cases as well as other sex discrimination complaints. The Title IX Office is responsible for the initial assessment of the complaint; any formal investigation; and the adjudication process, including appeals.
Why is the sexual misconduct policy so long?
Oxy’s policy is comprehensive and includes provisions that are required by law. Our current policy is an interim one. We are currently reviewing the policy with an eye toward making it easier to use and understand. In the meantime, my office is working on a series of PowerPoint presentations and print brochures that provide summaries to help students understand their rights and navigate the process.
Are any other changes to the policy going to be made?
Yes. In drafting a final policy and procedure, we will evaluate the recommendations of the White House Task Force on Sexual Assault, Oxy’s own Sexual Misconduct Advisory Board and external consultants. I will also draw on my own training and experience in evaluating Oxy’s policies and procedures.
How does Occidental’s policy define consent?
Our current interim policy requires affirmative consent, which is defined as “an affirmative, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity” that is conveyed by “mutually understandable words and/or actions.” The definition of consent has been an important issue for the Oxy community and the subject of much discussion. As noted above, all elements of the interim policy, including the definition of consent, are currently under review by the Title IX Office.
Have any significant changes been made in how Oxy handles sexual misconduct?
Yes, many. during the past year, we have hired a full-time Title IX coordinator and full-time survivor advocate; completely revised our policies and procedures; launched a 24/7 hotline; increased the amount of mandatory preventative education required of all students, with an emphasis on bystander intervention; and doubled the resources for Project SAFE (Sexual Assault Free Environment), our student-run advocacy and educational program. (A complete list can be found here.) I am now in the process of implementing an ongoing evaluation of all of our efforts so we can continue to improve.
How does the Title IX office learn of sexual misconduct complaints?
Complaints come to the Title IX Office directly from survivors, as well as other students, faculty, staff, and other third parties who may have heard about or witnessed an incident.
How does Oxy handle sexual misconduct cases? What's the process?
Once a complaint is received, the Title IX Office conducts an initial assessment. Our first priority is to ensure the safety of our students. We make sure that the complainant receives immediate medical attention, if necessary, and is aware of available counseling support, stay away orders, and any other accommodations. The Title IX coordinator or a member of the Title IX team will meet with the survivor to understand what happened and how a survivor wants to proceed, including providing the complainant with all internal and external reporting options.
An investigation may be started depending on a variety of factors, such as the complainant’s wish to pursue disciplinary action and the nature of the allegation. If an investigation starts, then an investigation team, internal or external, will interview witnesses, review other information, and submit a report to the Title IX Office detailing its findings.
What happens after the Title IX Office receives an investigation report?
The Title IX Office will then make a determination as to whether to bring the complaint to a hearing. If a hearing is required, the Title IX Office will convene a hearing panel or employ an external adjudicator, to determine whether the respondent to the complaint violated Oxy’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.
After the hearing panel, or external adjudicator, makes a determination, the parties have an opportunity to appeal. Any decision by appellate review is final.
What is the range of sanctions for students found responsible for sexual assault?
Under the interim policy, any student found to have committed sexual assault may receive a sanction ranging from suspension to expulsion. The interim policy also allows for deviation from prescribed sanctions for a limited number of reasons. As noted above, all elements of the interim policy, including sanctions, are currently under review by the Title IX Office.
If a respondent is found responsible for violating the policy, who determines which sanctions will be imposed?
The hearing panel makes recommendations to the hearing coordinator about the appropriate sanction. The hearing coordinator, in consultation with the Title IX coordinator, may affirm or modify the recommended sanction(s) and take reasonable steps to foster consistency for similar violations and circumstances. Sanctions are not subject to appeal.
Why does it take so long to process cases? Doesn’t the Department of Education require them to be completed in 60 days?
According to the Department of Education (DOE), which oversees Title IX enforcement, a typical process takes approximately 60 calendar days. However, evaluation of the timeliness of a complaint resolution is a case-by-case assessment and as the DOE points out “will vary on the complexity of the investigation and the severity and extent” of the complaint.
Since Jan. 1, 2011, at Oxy the average time elapsed from the filing of a complaint with the College to the resolution of the case by hearing has been 74 days. But we realize that every day, even if the process takes fewer than 60 days, is a tremendous burden on the participants. That’s why we are reviewing ways, both small and large, to improve the time it takes to process a complaint. We are also looking at our procedures themselves to determine whether there is a way to streamline the process and still ensure it is a prompt, fair, and thorough one.
Why aren't the police investigating each report of sexual misconduct?
Title IX requires colleges to address and remedy complaints of sexual misconduct, regardless of whether or not it is reported to law enforcement. In most circumstances, survivors decide what option to pursue: a campus investigation, a police report, both, or neither. The survivor advocate is available to accompany survivors to file a criminal report, should they choose to do so; the College always will cooperate fully with any police investigation. It is the responsibility of the Title IX coordinator to eliminate any impediments that stand in the way of survivors filing a police report, if that is their choice.
What impact will the White House Task Force's report and recommendations have at Oxy?
We have already implemented many of its recommendations, including the hiring of a survivor advocate, the use of bystander intervention training, and having a system in place for providing needed accommodations for survivors. What will be most useful to Oxy and other colleges are the tools and best practices the Task Force has assembled. I have already started drafting a campus climate survey for use next year; the best practices identified by the Task Force in this area will be helpful. A climate survey will give us a better sense of actual number of sexual assaults, help us better understand risks we need to address, and better inform our prevention efforts.
There is state legislation pending, SB 967, that would require colleges to adopt an affirmative consent in their sexual misconduct policies. What is the difference between the proposed consent standard and consent in the Occidental College policy?
SB 967 vs. Occidental Sexual Misconduct Policy
|SB 967||Occidental College Policy|
|“Affirmative consent” is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.||Consent consists of an affirmative, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.|
|Consent is informed, freely given, and voluntary.||The following are essential elements of effective consent: Informed and reciprocal; freely and actively given... Consent cannot be obtained through the use of force, coercion, threats, intimidation or pressuring, or by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another individual.|
|It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the consent of the other person to engage in the sexual activity.||All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope of the act to which they are consenting and a willingness to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way.|
|Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.||Consent may not be inferred from silence, passivity, lack of resistance or lack of active response. An individual who does not physically resist or verbally refuse sexual activity is not necessarily giving consent.|
|Consent must be ongoing throughout an encounter and can be revoked at any time.||Consent may be withdrawn by any party at any time. Recognizing the dynamic nature of sexual activity, individuals choosing to engage in sexual activity must evaluate consent in an ongoing manner and communicate clearly throughout all stages of sexual activity.|
|The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.||Even in the context of a current or previous intimate relationship, each party must consent to each instance of sexual contact each time. The consent must be based on mutually understandable communication that clearly indicates a willingness to engage in sexual activity. The mere fact that there has been prior intimacy or sexual activity does not, by itself, imply consent to future acts.|
View the Occidental Sexual Misconduct Policy.
View Senate Bill SB-967 on student safety: sexual assault.
- 24/7 Confidential Hotline:
- Survivor Advocate Naddia Palacios:
- Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones:
- Campus Safety Emergency Line:
(323) 259-2511 or dial 5 from any campus phone
- Dean of Students Office: (323) 259-2661