President Harry J. Elam, Jr. and other senior staff re-emphasize Oxy’s commitment to addressing sexual misconduct, explain some key policies and procedures, draw attention to available resources, and outline some additional steps the College plans to take.
Dear Oxy Community,
As we all know, sexual misconduct in all of its forms continues to be a problem on college campuses, including at Oxy—a problem that affects all students, both directly and indirectly. While the College has specific policies, dedicated staff and processes in place to actively prevent and respond to this problem, there is much more that we can do as a community to educate, to build awareness, to encourage survivors to come forward and ultimately to change campus culture and prevent sexual misconduct—everything from harassment to sexual assault--from occurring. Because the start of fall semester is when college students are at greatest risk for sexual violence, we want to re-emphasize Oxy’s commitment to addressing sexual misconduct, explain some key policies and procedures, draw attention to available resources, and outline some additional steps we plan to take.
HOW THE COLLEGE RESPONDS TO REPORTS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
When the College receives a report involving a potential violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the case is immediately referred to the Title IX Office, and we then follow a thorough process to ensure safety, confidentiality, and fairness for everyone involved. Oxy’s process for responding to reports of sexual violence purposefully is fully aligned with federal and state law. This process includes implementing immediate supportive measures, gathering relevant evidence, and allowing for all parties and witnesses to be heard before a determination of responsibility is made. College staff, including staff in Student Affairs, may also reach out to impacted students to offer resources, support, and any necessary safety measures.
The Oxy community’s desire for information about incidents of sexual violence involving students is understandable, driven by a praiseworthy concern for the well-being of others and the wish to make the Oxy campus safe for everyone. However, consistent with federal privacy laws and the need for a fair process, the facts, findings, and outcome of individual investigations cannot be disclosed to the campus community. Another reason that the investigation and resolution process is confidential is to encourage reporting and participation in the process. The idea of the details of their trauma being made public may discourage survivors from coming forward, and underreporting is one of the biggest obstacles we face in addressing sexual violence and ensuring those impacted receive support.
Privacy laws and the confidentiality of the process means that in most instances, reports of sexual misconduct cannot be shared with campus. When an allegation of sexual assault is reported to the College, an immediate assessment is made to determine if there is a serious or ongoing threat to the College community. If a determination is made that a threat to campus exists, a College-wide timely warning message is sent, as required by the Clery Act. The decision to send a timely warning depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each incident.
The Title IX Office is available to any member of the community wishing to access supportive measures and resources, or to make a report of a possible violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. When an investigation is opened, the College provides a prompt, thorough, equitable, and impartial resolution of the case. For those students that wish to see accountability without participating in an investigation, adaptable resolution options, including facilitated dialogues and restorative circles or conferences, are available as an alternative to the investigation process. A survivor seeking supportive measures may request that their name or other personally identifiable information not be shared with a respondent, that no investigation be pursued, or that no disciplinary action be taken. Resources are available even if a person does not wish to participate in an investigative process. You can find a list of both on- and off-campus resources on the Sexual Respect and Title IX web page here, including our Queer & Trans Guide.
Lack of knowledge about how the Title IX Office works, or quite frankly, lack of trust in how the process works, can discourage survivors from coming forward. We want to make sure that everyone is aware of Project SAFE, which is entirely independent of the Title IX Office. The Project SAFE Interim Survivor Advocate, Tirzah Blanche, is a confidential resource on campus, meaning you can speak to them about whatever is on your mind and it will stay between the two of you--no report will be filed. Project SAFE is Oxy’s interpersonal violence prevention and intervention program, and they provide completely survivor-centered and trauma-informed advocacy services based on survivor safety, voice and choice. Survivors and those impacted by violence are given information, tools and resources to make autonomous choices about what feels right to them, including whether or not to make a formal complaint to the Title IX Office. Appointments with Tirzah can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If students would rather connect with a trained peer, the Project SAFE Student Programming Assistants also host weekly peer support office hours in Library Room 103. Students can drop in, sign up here to meet with a Project SAFE PA, or email email@example.com. Finally, Project SAFE students and staff are hosting a listening session this Friday, Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. in JSC Morrison for the purpose of hearing the needs and voices of the Oxy campus community on the issue of sexual and interpersonal violence.
Many individuals on campus are dedicated to preventing and responding to sexual violence. However, it’s clear that there is more we can do. We have identified three areas that require immediate attention: training that is specific to Oxy and is focused on changing behavior and culture; more resources for the Title IX Office; and additional resources for survivor advocacy through Project SAFE. We look forward to working together this semester and soliciting input from student, faculty and staff leaders and other community members in order to have a firm action plan by the end of October.
In addition, the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility and Misconduct (CCSRM), made up of students, faculty and staff, will continue to work with the Title IX Office to review existing policy, plan for the administration of a campus climate survey later this fall, and consider updates to the Sexual Respect and Title IX website.
Creating an Oxy-specific response to sexual violence will require the input and participation of every member of the community. The advocacy of students, faculty and staff over the past several years has played an integral role in this process, and community involvement will continue to play a major role as we move ahead. We are committed to making a lasting difference at Oxy.
Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Title IX Coordinator
Project SAFE Program Coordinator & Prevention Education Specialist, Interim Survivor Advocate