Sexual Misconduct FAQs
Since I arrived at Occidental in February 2014, 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 FAQ 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, 12 in 2011, 11 in 2012, and 64 in 2013. (Of the 64 offenses reported in 2013, 34 involved incidents that occurred prior to 2013.) The report for 2014 is due Oct. 1, 2015.
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 have hired a full-time Clery reporting coordinator in our Campus Safety Office and installed specialized software that has enhanced 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 also provides an additional report 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 are conducting an anonymous online campus climate survey for students from Feb. 16-March 6, 2015 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. My office has put together 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 Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility & Misconduct 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 or external adjudicator make 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. The campus climate survey is now underway; the best practices identified by the Task Force in this area were quite 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.
- 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