I. Call to order
Ruth Jones called to order the meeting of the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility & Misconduct (CCSRM) at 3:00PM on November 16, 2015 in Hameetman Science Room #225.
II. Members Attending
The following persons were present:
Marianne Frapwell, Anne Schell, Brian Erickson, Katelyn Fink, Olivia Sabbins, Karla Aguilar, Jordan Brown, Ruth Jones, Sara Semal, Dana Michels, Richard Mora, Vivian Garay Santiago, Sergeant Claudia Conde and Sergeant Franco from Campus Safety
III. Administrative Matters
A. Review minutes from 10/26/15 meeting
B. Review feedback from online feedback form thus far
C. Update on revised Policy Feedback
D. During one of the Q&A sessions, it was brought to Ruth’s attention that it would be helpful to provide a document that indicates the major proposed changes to the policy. In response to that request, she has prepared the document "Highlights of Revisions to Occidental Sexual Misconduct Policy" which includes some of the highlights and page numbers of the major changes to the policy. This has been sent to all Oxy community members.
IV. Discussion of Consensual Relationship Provision
A. The revised policy states:
"Sexual or other intimate relationships in which one party maintains—and fails to promptly report and discontinue—a direct supervisory or evaluative role over the other party are prohibited. In general, this includes all sexual or other intimate relationships between students and their employers, supervisors, professors, coaches, advisors, or other College employees. Similarly, College employees (faculty and staff) who supervise or otherwise hold positions of authority over others are prohibited from having a sexual or other intimate relationship with an individual under the employee’s direct supervision.
The College does not wish to interfere with private choices regarding personal relationships when these relationships do not interfere with the goals and policies of the College. However, faculty, administrators, and others who educate, supervise, evaluate, employ, counsel, coach, or otherwise guide students should understand the fundamentally asymmetrical nature of the relationship they have with students or subordinates. Intimate or sexual relationships where there is a differential in power or authority produce risks for every member of our community and undermine the professionalism of faculty and supervisors. In either context, the unequal position of the parties presents an inherent element of risk and may raise sexual harassment concerns if one person in the relationship has the actual or apparent authority to supervise, evaluate, counsel, coach, or otherwise make decisions or recommendations as to the other person in connection with their employment or education at the College.
Sexual relations between persons occupying asymmetrical positions of power, even when both consent, raise suspicions that the person in authority has violated standards of professional conduct and potentially subject the person in authority to charges of sexual harassment based on changes in the perspective of the individuals as to the consensual nature of the relationship. Similarly, these relationships may impact third parties based on perceived or actual favoritism or special treatment based on the relationship.
The College has adopted a policy that balances, on the one hand, its wish not to interfere with the private choices of its community members and, on the other hand, concerns regarding relationships in which one party maintains a direct supervisory or evaluative role over the other party. Specifically, if an individual contemplates beginning or is involved in a sexual or other intimate relationship with another, over whom the individual holds direct supervisory or evaluative responsibilities, the individual must promptly: (1) discontinue any supervising role or relationship over the other person; and (2) report the circumstances to their own supervisor. Failure to fully or timely comply with these requirements is a violation of this Policy, and the person in authority could be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment by the College.
Any individual may file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination, including an aggrieved party outside the relationship affected by the perceived harassment or discrimination."
B. What is the rationale for leaving the current policy as is?
Some of the committee members discussed that the language in the current policy is adequate. Prohibiting consensual relationships among students and Oxy faculty/staff/administrators won’t necessarily ensure that all individuals will follow this policy, and we would rather have the relationships disclosed to respective supervisors than kept secret. Also, while we can try to set ethical boundaries, we as a community can also rely on adult individuals to make mature and ethical decisions regarding their consensual relationships. The revised policy states, "The College has adopted a policy that balances, on the one hand, its wish not to interfere with the private choices of its community members and, on the other hand, concerns regarding relationships in which one party maintains a direct supervisory or evaluative role over the other party." The main aspect of the policy we’d like to make clearer is the provision that if you decide to enter a consensual relationship with an Oxy community member who is an authoritative role over you, the employee or faculty member must promptly: (1) discontinue any supervising role or relationship over the other person; and (2) report the circumstances to their own supervisor.
C. What is the rationale for the College prohibiting consensual relationships between adult students and faculty? Should the College prohibit consensual relationships between students and other members of the college community e.g. Administrators and staff who have decision making authority or authority over students?
It was discussed our job as administrators, staff, and faculty, is to create an educational environment here at Oxy that allows all students to strive to accomplish their educational objectives. The main purpose of our work is to care for the students in our community, and allowing faculty to have romantic relationships with students could potentially lead to a biased, unfair review of a student’s work. It was also argued what if students feel coerced or harassed into engaging in a relationship with a person of authority? Due to the power dynamic in the relationship, students may be afraid of the repercussions of ending a relationship with someone who has some element of authoritative power over them. According to the revised policy, "Sexual relations between persons occupying asymmetrical positions of power, even when both consent, raise suspicions that the person in authority has violated standards of professional conduct and potentially subject the person in authority to charges of sexual harassment based on changes in the perspective of the individuals as to the consensual nature of the relationship."
D. Should the College exclude consensual relationships between employees?
It was agreed that the College should not exclude consensual relationships – members of the Oxy professional community are mature adults and can make their own decisions on who they enter romantic relationships with - but if two Oxy professionals are in a consensual relationship that they must (1) discontinue any supervising role or relationship over the other person; and (2) report the circumstances to their own supervisor.
It was also discussed that there needs to be more clarification on the employment levels (e.g. support staff, administrator, vice president, etc.) and how the reporting process will work for each level. Do individuals only need to report if they begin a consensual relationship with their direct supervisor? What if they are beginning to form a consensual relationship with their supervisors supervisor?
E. Next Steps:
Once the policy language is finalized and adopted by the College, this text should be communicated to the Faculty Council. The Faculty Council can then consider whether to include a statement in the Faculty Handbook on the ethics of a relationship between students and faculty.
Ruth will contact HR to see what the current process is for reporting a consensual relationship with someone in authority at Oxy. Update on this will be provided at our next meeting.