An Open Letter: Sexual Respect Policy Changes
Issue   |   Wed, 12/04/2013 - 00:43

Last year’s discussion surrounding sexual respect on campus illuminated a broken support system. Amherst College has since made many of the much-needed changes to the school’s sexual respect policy. Unfortunately, many students are unaware of these changes.

To address this, here is a comparison between former and current policies intended to educate students on changes to the College’s sexual respect policy and options in cases of sexual assault.

Who finds out about sexual assault?

All College employees, including faculty, staff and administrators, student employees, who have a responsibility for student welfare, and student volunteers, who have a responsibility for student welfare, are required to share with a member of the Title IX team any report of sexual harassment or misconduct they receive or of which they become aware.

Examples of students who have a duty to share the information with the Title IX team include, but are not limited to, Resident Counselors, Peer Advocates and Student Health Educators.

All College employees who see or hear anything related to sexual assault are required to inform their supervisors. College employees include RCs, SHEs, PAs, professors and staff members: these people are all required to report anything they hear about or see.

Students who want to report incidents of assault can do so anonymously or in person. This policy has not been changed.

The supervisors who receive reports are: the new Title IX Coordinator, Laurie Frankl; and the Deputy Coordinators: Amanda Collings Vann, Jen Hughes, Dean Greg Call, Maria-Judith Rodriguez and Dean Susie Mitton Shannon.

What are my choices?

As before, there are three options that students can choose from after reporting sexual assault. First, survivors can simply do nothing. Nothing is required, and survivors are allowed to choose not to pursue any avenues of recourse or sanctions.

Second, students can seek resources available at the College and the surrounding area. Students have access to Amherst College’s confidential medical, mental health and clerical resources, including: The College’s Health Services and Counseling Center (home to two new counselors, Sarah Erickson Psy.D and Laura Fusari LICSW, who both specialize in treating trauma survivors), Religious Life Advisors and the Center for Women and Community, the 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline (413-545-0800). Students can also report anonymously online at the College Sexual Respect website at www.amherst.ethicspoint.com.

The third option is to pursue a hearing. The College’s sexual misconduct hearing process has been redesigned to be more private for both survivors and their accused perpetrators, or respondents. Survivors of sexual assault can pursue sanctions against the respondent with the guidance of an advisor, a nonpartisan hearing board and an investigator (external to the College) that takes the pressure off the survivor.

What is the hearing process?

The first change is with the hearing panel itself. Last year, Amherst students, faculty and administrators made up the hearing panel. Now, three specially trained professionals from the Five Colleges will sit on the panel. To make the hearing process more private, no one on the panel will be from any school that implicated students attend.

Navigating the hearing process while having to recount one’s own assault or misconduct can be very difficult. Thus, Amherst has trained faculty and staff to be advisors during the hearing process. These advisors can help students navigate the hearing process in any capacity students need. Involved parties can choose their own advisor from a provided list or can choose not to have an advisor at all.

A third new aspect of the hearing process is the addition of a trained outside investigator hired by the College. The role of the investigator is to gather evidence, take statements from witnesses and talk to the complainant and respondent. The investigator will then make a statement to the hearing committee based on the collected evidence.

While the hearing process is occurring, accommodations can be made to improve quality of life on campus for survivors and respondents. No-contact orders and room switches for the respondent can be arranged. These resources are also available to students who make a report to the Title IX team about sexual misconduct.

Which College Employees Are Directly Involved With Sexual Respect?

Along with changes to the hearing process and the reporting process, the College has worked to change campus culture regarding sexual respect. Amherst has created new positions and dedicated full-time employees to provide more resources focused on sexual respect. They are:

Mariana Cruz- Full-time director of the Multicultural Resource Center (new position)
Laurie Frankl- Full-time Title IX Coordinator (new position)
Scott Howard- Case Manager (new position)
Danielle Hussey- Full-time director of the Women’s and Gender Center (new position)
Jim Larimore- Dean of Students
Angie Tissi- Full-time director of the Queer Resource Center (new position)
Peter Uvin- Provost (new position)
Amanda Collings Vann- Sexual Respect Educator (new position)

The above College employees are open and willing to listen to student feedback on improvements to sexual respect culture and proceedings.

Understandably, last year’s discussion of sexual respect focused on identifying the problem. Moving forward, the dialogue can expand to address improvements to Amherst College’s sexual respect policies and culture. The immediate action taken and the improved hearing process aim to increase transparency and provide a broader support network for students in need. Administrative reform, however, is not the only avenue to improve sexual culture on campus. We, as students, must increase our awareness of issues of sexual respect and pledge to reform our conduct as well.

Signed,

The student representatives of the Sexual Respect Task Force
Main Contributors: Andrew Edelman ’15, Siraj Sindhu ’17

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