Minutes of 2/12/15 Meeting

I. Call to order

Ruth Jones called to order the meeting of the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility & Misconduct (CCSRM) at 11:05 a.m. on February 12, 2015 in Hameetman 225.

II. Members Attending

The following persons were present:

Olivia Sabins; Karla Aguilar; Veronika Barsegyan; Sara Semal; Thomas Wesley; Movindri Reddy; Amy Fluett; Ruth Jones; Richard Mora; Brian Erickson; Maureen McRae Goldberg; Jordan Brown

III. Title IX Office Updates

A. Update on web page revision

a.     The "How to Report" page was updated to become more user-friendly.

b.     CCSRM committee webpage will be ready this week. The page will contain committee members’ names and contact information as well as the minutes from each meeting.

B.    Climate survey information

a.     Drafted letter to students/student organizations is in progress.

b.     Ruth will be in the Quad during the next few weeks, distributing brochures/information about the survey. Flyers will also be posted throughout campus.

c.     Other suggestions by committee members to promote the survey included: insert information in the napkin holders in the dining hall, send information out through Project Safe’s Listserv, announce the survey at the end of the Vagina Monologues/Apollo night talent show and dance.    

C.    Training Update

a.     Another Title IX general staff training has been scheduled for Monday, February 23 from 12 noon-1 p.m..

b.     Advanced training has also been scheduled, including: first responder safety with Campus Safety, weekly trainings with Title IX deputy coordinators, Peace Over Violence trauma-informed training regarding sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking to take place with deputy coordinators and discrimination investigators. During the end of this semester advanced training for discrimination investigations will also occur.

IV. Retaliation Provision

A. Current policy -- Statement against Retaliation

It is a violation of College policy to retaliate in any way against an individual because s/he raised allegations of sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking or intimate partner violence. The College recognizes that retaliation can take many forms, may be committed by or against an individual or a group, and that a Complainant, Respondent or third party may commit or be the subject of retaliation.

The College will take immediate and responsive action to any report of retaliation and will pursue disciplinary action as appropriate. An individual reporting sexual harassment or misconduct is entitled to protection from any form of retaliation following a report that is made in good faith, even if the report is later not proven.

B. Last meeting it was agreed that the current policy is not sufficiently clear, and it brings up some confusion about what retaliation includes. A CCSRM member asked, "What are the ‘many forms’ mentioned in the policy?" An agreed-upon idea was to possibly include more examples after the provision that college age students can relate to.

V. Introduction to Occidental’s Title IX Procedure

Multiple documents that are distributed to students involved in Title IX complaints have been posted to the CCSRM Google Site.

There were two objectives for the meeting: 1) give committee members more insight and answer questions regarding current policies, 2) invite members to bring up additional issues they would like the Title IX Office to address in the process.

Title IX Coordinator RJ started the conversation by bringing up the issue that the Title IX complaint resolution process can impose a heavy burden on students involved, during every step of the process. The Title IX office is working to not only make the complaint resolution process faster, but also find ways to become less burdensome to students.

A. Issues of Attorneys Serving as Advisors

What if one student involved has an attorney to serve as their advisor and one does not (either the complainant or respondent)? This brings up equity issues: how do we make it fair for students who come from different socio-economic backgrounds?

Title IX Coordinator RJ mentioned that the Title IX office is looking into finding attorneys to serve as advisors pro bono.

What if attorneys overstep their boundaries? What are the grounds for removing attorneys from cases?

One committee member mentioned that the Title IX office needs to be thorough in its sexual misconduct policy regarding attorneys serving as advisors, making the expectations and boundaries clear. Unfortunately, not all attorneys are trained in Title IX, which is why all advisors should receive the necessary Title IX training in regard to serving as an advisor.

An idea for maintaining expectations between the Title IX office and an attorney would be to have the attorney sign a form such as "I am aware of the rules, etc. within this process, and if I violate these rules, I will no longer be an advisor…" (this idea needs additional thought).

B. Issues Regarding Intake Process

When the Title IX office receives a new complaint, the Title IX coordinator follows an in-depth intake process. A summary of this process was shared with CCSRM committee members.

The length of the investigation process depends on a number of factors including how long time, depending on how long it takes for student witnesses to respond to emails and schedule their interviews. The length of time of the investigation depends on the responsiveness of all parties involved in the case. It can also be difficult to gather evidence from outside agencies (ex: medical records).

Investigation report is typically about 100-200 pages (narrative of incident, witness summaries, evidence, and exhibits). This can seem overwhelming to the complainant and respondent who have the opportunity to read the report before the hearing.

C. Issues Regarding Hearings

Both the complainant and respondent have an option to participate in the hearing; it is not required. If they do decide to participate, they are instructed to decide which witnesses they would like present, create questions for the adjudicator, investigator and witnesses, and create an opening statement. This can be burdensome for students, as it creates additional pressure and stress for them on top of their busy academic schedules.

Hearings can take anywhere from 4-8 hours. Committee members agreed that hearings can be extremely traumatizing, painful, and difficult for students.

Hearings can also be very stressful for the witnesses involved. The Title IX Office understands this and has created a "FAQ" document for witnesses who are invited to participate in hearings, to hopefully help them feel more comfortable with the process.

While some may think that hearings are "what are fair," some institutions are adopting the "investigative model" so that hearings no longer take place in their Title IX complaint resolution process. Under the investigative model, the investigators gather information and then make decisions regarding whether policy violations occurred. They draft a report and then the respondent and complainant have an opportunity to review the draft. A hearing panel reviews the investigative report and discusses whether the policy was violated and what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. Panel would be composed of faculty, staff, and administrators (no students) and would potentially have multi-year contracts due to the amount of training that would be needed. There is no live testimony from the complainant, respondent, or witnesses. There are both pros and cons to this method.

Title IX Coordinator RJ will research what the investigative model looks like at other small, private institutions: how does the model work? How do students and the community respond to it? What was the transition like from the hearing model to the investigative model?

Hearing panels/adjudicators need to be adequately trained before a Title IX hearing. Title IX Coordinator RJ suggested that we adopt a procedure that requires a multi-year commitment for adjudicators commit to serving for a number of years due to training purposes and the knowledge base one needs to have.

D. Sharing Private and Confidential Documents

Currently, any private and confidential documents shared with complainants/respondents and their respective advisors are posted to OneHub, a secure file sharing web-based database. While committee members agreed that sharing confidential documents has been an issue in the past, the Title IX office no longer uses names in the documents (only initials), and watermarks each document with the viewer’s email address and time stamp. All uses are required to sign a privacy agreement before accessing any documents on OneHub. The only way to completely safeguard the document sharing process would be to have "live viewings" in the Title IX office, where the complainant/respondent and their advisors would have a limited amount of time to review the reports in person.

E. Stress for Those Serving as Advisors

One committee member brought up the burden that faculty members face when serving as advisors for students involved in Title IX complaints. Some of the cases are extremely difficult and advisors may need more emotional support when going through the process. While EAP counselors can serve as a confidential counselor for up to three sessions, stronger support may be needed for some faculty members. An idea would be to offer advisors additional resources for emotional support, such as community groups and outside agencies. More information on this to come.

To gauge the stress that advisors deal with, an idea of one committee member was to converse with previous advisors to find out what they believe is the most stressful part of the process and ask for ideas on how to make improvements for future advisors.