On March 3, the faculty met for the first meeting of the spring semester. The top three items on the agenda were the presentation of the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct (SMOC) report, the presentation of the Title IX report and a vote on the Open-Access Resolution, which was presented during the last faculty meeting in the fall.
Margaret Hunt, the chair of the SMOC committee and Professor of History, presented some of the report’s more important points to the faculty. According to Professor Hunt, the main finding of the committee’s report was that the College’s statistics fall in line with other four-year residential colleges. The committee also found that the main victims of sexual assault are first-year women, often in the fall semester.
Professor Hunt also provided some statistics that answered questions about the involvement of athletes in sexual misconduct cases at the College. According to Professor Hunt, 23 percent of the perpetrators in these cases were athletes, while 77 percent were non-athletes. Furthermore, she said, 100 percent of the athletes who committed sexual assault appeared before the hearing board, while only 30 percent of non-athlete perpetrators came before the board.
Other issues that the SMOC committee reported were problems concerning the lack of suitable space for safe drinking environments, better coordination in the Dean of Students Office and triggering content in courses.
A summary of the SMOC committee’s recommendations with a proposed timeline and responsible offices was presented to the faculty. President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin stressed that this list is not a final document and that the committee is open to concerns or comments.
Suzanne Coffey, Director of Athletics and Coordinator of the Title IX Committee, then presented the findings of that committee. According to the Coffey’s presentation, the obligations under Title IX are to: “publish a notice of non-discrimination; designate a Title IX coordinator; adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution following a reliable and impartial investigation of complaints; [and] take immediate, effective steps to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and address its effects.”
Coffey described some of the recommendations the Title IX Committee made, including a different hearing board for sexual harassment complaints. Before, the board was composed of faculty and students; the proposed plan is a three-person panel, in which the members are chosen from a previously determined list of nine people from the Five-College area. Coffey explained that the Committee would identify members of the community whose line or work or expertise is related to sexual misconduct.
Furthermore, Coffey explained that the College would not support outside settlements and that, while lawyers could provide counsel, they would not be allowed to participate in the hearing process. Professor Lawrence Douglas questioned the explanation behind those decisions. Coffey, along with Gina Smith, the consultant hired last semester to review the College’s sexual assault policies, explained that this decision was taken to make sure that the hearing process was as fair and balanced as possible. Smith explained that there is great imbalance, in terms of socioeconomic status, when it comes to hiring outside counsel, therefore it would not be fair to allow legal counsel from one party, but not the other.
Professor Jessica Reyes also wondered whether parents would play a role during the hearing process. Professor Catherine Sanderson, a member of the Title IX committee, said that parents were not to be included in the process for the same reason that legal counselors could not be included: to provide a fair hearing to both parties.
Coffey and Smith also discussed the role of the independent investigator within these hearings. The investigator would take care of all of the interviews and information gathering before the hearing began. Paul Murphy, the College’s Legal and Administrative Counsel, said that the administration is currently interviewing independent investigators.
President Martin said that the College’s policies have improved greatly since five months ago when the College first began to draft changes. The College is now fully compliant with Title IX and will continue to improve in the future.
The last item on the agenda was a vote on the Open-Access Resolution, which was presented last semester. The Open-Access Resolution’s description, according to the Library’s website is described as follows: “Each faculty member grants to Amherst College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. More specifically, each faculty member grants to Amherst College a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others, including faculty members, to do the same.”
The resolution would change the open access policy from an opt-in system to an opt-out system. Faculty members could request a waiver, which would be granted automatically. A similar system is implemented at peer institutions, including Harvard Univ., Princeton Univ., MIT, Duke, Oberlin and Wellesley.
Professors voiced concerns about the way in which this policy would affect journals, particularly small and independent ones. They wondered if journals would lose subscriptions once readers could access their articles for free online. However, Bryn Geffert, Librarian of the College, and Professor Chris Kingston explained that evidence proved that this would not be the case. Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communications tracked the effect of Harvard’s policy, as well as 30 other policies, over the last four and half years. The office found no change in journal publishing.
Other professors remained confused about the legal implications of the copyright and licensing, as stated in the resolution. Professor Kingston emphasized that ultimately the professor would own the copyright. Professor Hunt said that the reason she found the resolution so appealing was because she would own the copyright to her work. Often, she said, the journals for which she submitted articles would go out of business and her work would be lost. Owning the copyright would make sure that this situation would not happen again.
After discussing further discussing the legal implications of the resolution, the faculty voted to adopt the open-access policy.