Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Respect at Occidental


Developing and fostering a culture of sexual respect and preventing sexual misconduct are key priorities for Oxy.

Dear Occidental Students, Faculty and Staff,

Developing and fostering a culture of sexual respect and preventing sexual misconduct are key priorities for Oxy. The march and protest on Friday organized by OSAC and attended by so many students further underscored the fact that we must continue to act. More than this, listening to student leaders, and observing the unity and commitment of the gathered student community at the protest, served to reaffirm for me that our students, faculty, and staff can productively work together to achieve change. Because of our size, our culture of care, and our unique community, Oxy must also continue to educate and train all community members, and expand our efforts designed to prevent sexual misconduct and support survivors. As president, I am firmly committed to doing so. 

We understand that too many students feel that the administration is not sufficiently attentive to issues related to sexual misconduct and this concerns us greatly. Accordingly, we will work all the harder in collaboration with students to develop and implement strategies that promote sexual respect and a healthy campus environment. To that end, one clear message is that students want to see a comprehensive plan that incorporates and addresses the needs and input of students and a timetable for the actions we intend to undertake. Here is that plan.

HIRING

  • On Oct. 25, Tirzah Blanche was appointed as the new manager of Project SAFE and survivor advocate. A search for a new Program Coordinator and Prevention Education Specialist—Tirzah’s previous role—is in the early stages. We are also in the process of hiring additional student Program Assistants. (You can find the application here.) In addition, we are committed to hiring a second survivor advocate to work under Tirzah’s supervision. Successful searches take time, and need to involve the College community as a whole. Still, we will make every effort to have these positions filled by the end of the spring 2022 semester. 

  • We are also in the early stages of hiring a full-time case and support manager in the Title IX Office, who will be trained to conduct intake meetings, coordinate needed resources and accommodations, provide status updates on ongoing cases and other forms of support for those involved in the Title IX process. We will make every effort to have this position filled by the end of the spring 2022 semester

  • Identifying resources and appropriately trained individuals to provide in-person support on weekends to ensure that Oxy students have access to confidential support seven days a week remains a high priority. We will identify a sustainable and appropriate plan for weekend staffing and will make every effort to have these positions filled by the end of the spring 2022 semester.

  • Early in the spring 2022 semester, we will resume our search for an additional Emmons counselor, with priority given to candidates with expertise in working with non-binary students and students of color. Like all current Emmons therapists, this new counselor will have trauma-informed training. To meet the specific needs of survivors, we will also work with Emmons to develop specialized trauma-informed therapy. We will make every effort to have this counselor in place prior to the start of the fall 2022 semester.

  • In the spring 2022 semester, we will conduct a thorough review of the operations and bandwidth of the Title IX Office, especially considering the continued increase in reports and requests for investigations. We will share with the community where we plan to add additional staff in the Title IX Office by the end of the spring 2022 semester.

  • In each of these searches, we will emphasize the recruitment of a diverse candidate pool through an inclusive and equitable process. It is also important to note that across Oxy and higher ed, the pandemic has impacted hiring timelines.

CLARITY & ACCESSIBILITY OF INFORMATION 

  • Starting today, we will better publicize the College’s online anonymous reporting form by linking it on the main Sexual Respect and Title IX page.

  • We will publish end-of-semester reports that provide an overview of the reports received by the Title IX Office and the resolution of formal complaints, including sanctions imposed. The first end-of-semester report will be distributed in January 2022. You can review the Title IX Office’s annual report for the last academic year here.

  • At the beginning of the spring 2022 semester, we will update the Sexual Respect and Title IX website with the goal of making it easier to use and understand. A more in-depth overhaul of the website will occur prior to the start of the next academic year. The new site will include new training resources and reference materials for all students, faculty, and staff.

  • Starting with the spring 2022 semester, Project SAFE will conduct regular listening sessions each semester and encourage student participation. Anonymized feedback from these listening sessions will be shared with the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility & Misconduct (CCSRM). The CCSRM will evaluate the information to identify areas in which we can continue to improve and will include a summary of their evaluation and recommendations for continued action in its annual report to the community.

TRAINING & EDUCATION

  • Starting in the spring 2022 semester, working with students, ASOC, Faculty Council (FC), All Staff Council (ASC) and the CCSRM, we will appoint an inclusive Sexual Misconduct Training and Education Working Group to develop a new and comprehensive training and education program unique to Oxy.  This new program will include:

    • Replacing the current online student training tool for Orientation with a more effective and accessible model. As is now the case, all students will be required to complete sexual misconduct training each year. In fall 2022, this mandatory training will also include an in-person component with specialized outreach and programming for first year students. We intend to have this training in place for fall 2022 Orientation.

    • Developing a plan for continuing and targeted education if there are multiple reports of sexual misconduct by members of a specific athletic team, club sport, Greek organization, other registered student club or student organization, student-based affinity organization, etc. This plan will be in addition to the ongoing NCAA-mandated training for each athletic team in season and will be developed by the Title IX Office, the Dean of Students, Project SAFE, the Athletic Director, and SLICE. We intend to have this additional training implemented by fall 2022 Orientation.

    • Creating new training opportunities and resources for faculty and staff for the start of the 2022-23 academic year. Working with the Faculty Council, Project SAFE and the CCSRM, we will create specific workshops for faculty and staff. With support from the Faculty Council and the vote of the faculty, such training could become mandatory for faculty. We will also develop and implement in fall 2022 a training program for new faculty and staff to better prepare them to address issues of sexual misconduct in a trauma-informed way. 

    • By fall 2022, a new pocket guide on sexual respect and responsibility, in addition to other new or updated written materials, will be provided to all faculty and staff. Materials will be available in visible and easily accessible locations in a variety of campus buildings. 

    • These new initiatives will include outreach and education aimed specifically at LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and other campus communities that historically have under-reported sexual misconduct.  

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE 

  • In spring 2022 semester, with support from the president’s office, and leadership from Professor Thalia González and Dean Flot, we will resume the Occidental Restorative Justice Group, which has been on pause since the pandemic began, to support restorative responses to Title IX, conflict, harm, and community building, as well as other aspects of campus life. We are fortunate to have some faculty expertise in this area and are seeking to build expertise among staff as well and will consult with them to determine the best way to proceed.  The group will be transformed into a diverse committee of students, faculty, and staff and formally charged with evaluating and planning the campus-wide implementation of restorative practices at Oxy. We will make every effort to have this committee resume in the spring 2022 semester, and implement new campus-wide programming in the fall 2022 semester.

Nearly all the initiatives and actions described above are the result of the valuable input we have received from OSAC and Oxy community members, and we sincerely thank you for engaging in these conversations. We will look to partner with all of you on these most critical concerns and will continue to keep the community informed of our ongoing efforts.

Sincerely,

President Elam