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The Office of Student Life is recommending changes in the University's Sexual Misconduct Policy and the creation of an Office for Student Conduct for academic and non-academic offenses, announced Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services, at a Brown University Community Council meeting March 16. The meeting — one of the monthly BUCC meetings — was held to present a review of the University's Standards for Student Conduct, which occurs every three years.

A committee of faculty, staff, undergraduate students and graduate students reviewed the Standards for Student Conduct, with Philip Gruppuso, associate dean of medicine for medical education, chairing the committee.

"There was quite a bit of student input while we were formulating the recommendations," Klawunn said.

The changes to the Sexual Misconduct Policy would create two separate tiers representing two levels of sexual offenses. The first tier, IIIa, consists of sexual misconduct that "involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature." The second tier, IIIb, consists of sexual misconduct that "includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury."

The creation of the two tiers in the Sexual Misconduct Policy was spurred by an effort to make the specificity of offenses more clear, Klawunn said.

Klawunn said that this distinction mirrors Rhode Island state law. The policies of Brown's peer schools have more specific levels of misconduct, she said.

"In some of these cases, as it stands now, (the sexual misconduct code is) very general. Cases would go forward and students would come out with a decision and not know where it falls," said Yolanda Castillo, associate dean of student life.

"We didn't want to make things narrow, but we also wanted to make sure students had a sense of specificity on these issues," Castillo said.

Trish Bakaitis-Glover, sexual assault response and prevention program coordinator with Health Services, said the new tiers prevent students from "being in an unknown place" about why a sanction is applied and what evidence is necessary to prove a violation.

According to proposed new language to the sexual misconduct code, offenses falling under IIIb will "result in more severe sanctions, separation from the University being standard."

"We needed to clear up the language on what the actions would be. The sanctions will be serious," Klawunn said.

Klawunn said the two tiers and their corresponding disciplinary consequences are not part of a criminal process.

"However, we remind students that sexual misconduct is a criminal offense, and they can also file it for a criminal case," Klawunn said.

According to the presentation, some sexual misconduct may be subject to prosecution by Rhode Island authorities, separate from charges under the Code of Student Conduct.
Bakaitis-Glover said that, based on statistical information from the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five women experience rape or attempted rape in college and one in 33 men experience rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes.

"We don't have any reasons to believe it will be different on our campus," she said.
Bakaitis-Glover said that many sexual assault cases are not reported and that charges are not filed.

"It's very underreported everywhere, and we figured it must be true here," Klawunn said.
Castillo said students who are involved in campus life are well aware of the academic and non-academic codes in general. But, she said, she does not think all students are fully aware of the details. She said there are plans to follow up on the review by raising campus awareness about the policies.

"Reviewing policies and sending the message that we want to be clear in expectations and what the policy includes is important. When a community says they don't tolerate violence, it prevents many serious issues," Bakaitis-Glover said.

She also said the University and campus culture can be effective in sending this message together.

Bakaitis-Glover said that programs such as the Sexual Assault Peer Education program and Sexual Assault Advisory Board can "bring awareness to issues on campus providing direct support to those who have been affected."

"What we're doing is trying to make sure more of these resources are available," Klawunn said.

Aside from the creation of the two tiers of sexual misconduct, the report presented to the BUCC also included the possibility of installing an Office of Student Conduct to manage all academic and non-academic offenses.

The Dean of the College currently deals with student violations to the academic code, while the Office of Student Life is focused on behavioral offenses.

An Office of Student Conduct would "encourage a ‘community standard' " and provide deans with "a plan for shared management of cases," according to the presentation.

"We want to have one group of faculty, staff and students who are trained and share some training so that there is one office for student conduct," Klawunn said.

"We need to be more proactive in getting the code out. That's what the academic code is in need of — getting information out consistently and together," Castillo added.

Some other recommendations included in the report were a change in the name from "non-academic disciplinary system" to the "code of student conduct" and strengthening the language for weapon and violence violations.



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