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U. implements sexual assault proposals

University to conduct campus-wide culture survey, hire investigators to collect evidence

In response to the Task Force on Sexual Assault’s interim report released Dec. 17, the University has enacted major reforms to address sexual assault policy, wrote President Christina Paxson P’19 in a community-wide email Thursday. The new measures mandate that the appeals process last less than 30 days, that all community members undergo regular sexual assault training and that students found responsible for sexual misconduct and sanctioned with separation from Brown leave their campus residences immediately.

Paxson assembled a working group led by Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion Liza Cariaga-Lo to implement the report’s recommendations.

Almost all of the reforms recommended in the interim report have now been implemented, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, adding that widespread community input spurred administrators to execute the report’s “high-priority” recommendations.

Carey said it is “premature” to evaluate Brown’s updated policies relative to those of its peers in terms of leadership on sexual assault reform, noting that many American universities’ policies on the matter are currently in flux.

The reforms Paxson announced in Thursday’s email center on increasing the availability and clarity of sexual assault resources, updating case procedures and boosting transparency regarding cases’ final decisions.
As recommended by the task force, a new sexual misconduct and Title IX website was created, Paxson wrote. The site includes links to resources for those who have been sexually assaulted or who wish to report an incident, she wrote.

Content on the Office of Student Life’s sexual misconduct site was updated to reflect new University policies. Additionally, new flow-charts explaining the actions taken by the University and students in sexual misconduct cases have been placed on the site and will be updated throughout the semester, Paxson wrote.

The University will provide annual mandatory training programs for all students, faculty members and staff members. The timing and details of who will administer the training remain undecided, Carey said.

This new mandatory training marks a substantial improvement on previous protocol, under which attendance was only mandatory for undergraduates during first-year orientation and was not strictly enforced, he said.

The University will provide funds to cover the costs of implementing the training sessions, Paxson wrote. It will also create a discretionary fund to allow Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, to allocate the appropriate personal and medical resources to complainants and respondents.

The interim report suggested the University regularly collect data to monitor the campus climate surrounding sexual assault. To provide a baseline for data in the future, the University will administer a survey drafted by the American Association of Universities to undergraduates, graduate students and medical students over a three-week period between early April and mid-May, Carey said.

Paxson is “committed” to making the results of the survey known to the Brown community, he said, adding that those results will most likely be released in the fall.

To alleviate the trauma students involved in sexual assault cases may experience, the appeals process must now end within 30 days of an appeal request, Paxson wrote. The University will also share appeals made by one party with all other involved parties.

A student support dean from the OSL and an academic dean from the dean of the College office will be assigned to assist both complainants and respondents, Paxson wrote.

The University will play a more active role in providing students with the guidance they need to navigate the difficulties of coursework during the time-consuming hearing process, Carey said.

“It’s not that you can go see dean X in her office hours, but that we want you to see dean X and we’ll make it happen,” he added.

Failure to comply with any measures taken between reporting and the trial, such as a no-contact order, will prompt an immediate response, such as removal from or limited access to campus.

To ensure hearings are unbiased and “less traumatic to students,” the University will hire trained investigators to gather evidence and create a report that will be used as case materials.

This practice is common among peer institutions, Carey said.

Justice Gaines ’16, one of four undergraduate representatives on the task force, voiced concerns about the role of investigators potentially unfamiliar with Brown in the hearing process.

“The changes seem to be going further for the investigation model than we had even suggested,” Gaines said. Investigators should receive “Brown-centric” training so they understand the campus culture, he said, adding that training could also familiarize investigators with issues of race, gender and sexuality relevant to many students.

But while details of the training have yet to be determined, the sessions will probably not focus on culture specific to College Hill, Carey said. It is most important that investigators have experience working on college campuses, and any training they receive related to Brown will probably be conveyed through the OSL and the Office of Institutional Diversity, he added.

In addition to an updated statement listing the rights and responsibilities of students involved in sexual assault cases, both parties in future cases will be given copies of the Student Conduct Board’s memorandum of findings and their decision letters, Paxson wrote.

“The idea is to provide greater transparency regarding the findings of the Student Conduct Board — not just a yes, no, responsible, not responsible,” Carey said. Detailed explanations of the reasons for the board’s decisions were previously administered to students inconsistently and often not in writing, he said.

Students found responsible for sexual misconduct whose sanction includes separation from Brown will be immediately removed from on-campus housing and limited in their on-campus activities during an appeals process, Paxson wrote.

The University has also clarified that the period of separation decided in a hearing will not include the semester during which the case is heard, Paxson wrote.

With an earlier deadline for suspended students to petition for their returns to campus, complainants will be notified sooner about a respondent’s possible return, Paxson wrote.

Gaines said the University should specify that complainants will be notified early enough to decide whether to take a leave of absence when the respondent returns.

The intent of pushing up the deadline was to provide complainants with adequate time, Carey said, though he added that it remains to be seen whether the University will be able to implement a rule universally applicable to all cases.


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