Editor’s note: The following is an informative article from Launa Rohrer, dean of students, to provide definitions and specificities for the crime statistics report. The definitions used below are from “The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting by the U.S. Department of Education.”
The high participation at the Carry That Weight movement’s National Day of Action as well as the attendance at Monday’s convocation and talkback session on gender issues is indicative that students are ready to actively engage important topics on our campus. It is my hope as a member of the administration to support and partner with the student momentum to increase our collaborative effort against sexual assault. Through real dialogue, affirmative consent and bystander intervention, members of the campus community can become informed to address concerns. This article focuses on questions students have raised about reporting incidents of sexual misconduct. It seeks to clarify federal reporting requirements around crime statistics, as well as GC policy and process responding to sexual assault.
Colleges and universities are responsible to report crime statistics for their campuses, including crimes of sexual violence: specifically, forcible sex offenses and non-forcible sex offenses and their locations. The following definitions are provided to clarify the nature of what is reported at this level. Forcible sex offense is legally defined as any sexual act directed against another person, against that person’s will including forcible fondling, rape, sodomy and sexual assault with an object. Forcible sex offense includes incidents when the victim is incapable of giving consent. A non-forcible sex offense is unlawful sexual intercourse that includes incest and statutory rape. In addition, colleges and universities are required to report only those crimes that occur in the following locations: on-campus, on-campus student housing and on public property. On-campus locations include buildings or property owned or controlled by the institution. On-campus student housing is defined as any housing facility that is owned or controlled by the institution. Public property includes thoroughfares, streets, sidewalks and parking facilities that are within the campus or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus. With these definitions, a sexual assault that occurs at an off-campus party on Main Street would not be included in the federally reported crime statistics as GC does not own or control private residences.
Alongside the federal mandates, Goshen College has its own “Policy and Procedures on Sexual Harrassment, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking.” As the policy states, “Goshen College is a Christian institution in which ‘we begin with a vital concern for the welfare of all community members.’”
In 2008, GC invested approximately 50,000 grant dollars for a review of sexual misconduct policy. Student Life invited Baker & Daniels, LLC a firm specializing in higher education law to review the process and the following procedures: the intake and subsequent investigation of reports, professional training for the investigative team, consideration and communication of findings, and responses or sanctions for those involved in the complaint. Again last academic year, with the changes in the Violence Against Women’s Reathorization Act of 2013 and Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE), Student Life again retained legal counsel from Yoder, Ainlay, Almer & Buckingham, LLP for a review of policy and procedures and implemented recommended changes.
Current policy states, “Goshen College does not condone and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any individual” and “sexual misconduct includes but is not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” For example, unwelcome comments of a sexual nature, name-calling, comments about one’s body or sex life, indecent exposure, physical gestures or displaying sexually explicit photographs, are all included in the policy. Unwelcome demands or requests for sexual favors or social or sexual encounters, and non-consensual sexual contact are additional examples of misconduct outlined in GC’s current policy.
The Sexual Misconduct Response Team (SMRT) serves as a mechanism for reporting of any violations of the sexual misconduct policy. The team is comprised of male and female GC faculty, from various departments, and professional staff who have engaged specific training on receiving and investigating reports of sexual misconduct involving students. Students wanting to report a policy violation may select the member they know best to submit the complaint. The members consult with each other throughout the investigation with a commitment to clear thinking and decision-making for both the complainant and the respondent. The behavior need not reach criminal definitions in order to be addressed. The policy also allows for growth-oriented responses to misconduct. The SMRT engages in meaningful conversations that expect others to learn, grow and change.
If students wish to report the misconduct anonymously, they can speak with a campus minister, campus counselor or trusted faculty member. Students should be prepared to identify the date, location and type of misconduct. This information will be given to director of campus security to be included in the annual crime statistics.
Given the size of GC and the nature of the violations, confidentiality is essential. The SMRT seeks to protect the confidentiality of those involved in misconduct investigations. The team recognizes that there is tension between the commitment to those involved and keeping the GC community informed. The representation of males and females, faculty and staff on the team is in place to foster confidence that multiple voices, minds, positions are engaged and responsible for upholding GC policy.
What students can do:
1. Be aware. The most severe forms of sexual misconduct occur most often at off-campus gatherings, among peers under the influence of alcohol and substances.
2. “Yes means Yes.” Check-in at each point of each intimate encounter. Stop if you don’t get the verbal ok.
3. Intervene when you see something that isn’t right. Speak up, redirect or distract. Students can hold each other accountable for behaviors that may place others or themselves at risk.
4. Report it. Even if alcohol or drugs were involved. Even if “I/he/she/we should have known better.” Reports to SMRT that include Community Standards violations will not result in additional disciplinary process.
5. Keep the ‘gender conversation’ going. Monday’s convocation turn-out exceeded expectations; let’s keep talking.
6. Engage with Student Senate. Student Senate wants to your ideas to foster gender dialogue.
7. Tell your faculty ‘thank you.’ We would not be able to take on these complex issues without the tools provided by our curriculum. Faculty and administrators care deeply about these issues and contribute time, energy and expertise inside and outside the classroom.