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Title IX Office launches new Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct Policy

New policy complements existing Title IX Policy, addresses sexual misconduct, expands U. jurisdiction

The University’s Title IX and Gender Equity Office announced a new Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct Policy in a March 2 Today@Brown letter from Title IX Coordinator Rene Davis. 

The new policy, which addresses sexual violence and harassment that falls outside of the Title IX and Gender Equity Office’s legal purview, will “address sexual assault, interpersonal violence and sexual and gender-based harassment,” Davis wrote in the announcement. 

The new policy adds to the existing regulations implemented by Title IX, University policy and Rhode Island laws. This includes creating a broader definition of sexual harassment and categorizing sexual exploitation — which includes voyeurism, prostitution, disseminating sexual images of a person, exposing genitals and purposely exposing someone to a sexually transmitted infection — as prohibited conduct. 

The policy also extends Title IX rules to apply to misconduct that takes place off-campus, including actions of staff or students taken during Brown-sponsored programs and activities abroad. It also expands the University’s jurisdiction to address misconduct that occurs between Brown-affiliated individuals, even if that misconduct is not committed on University property. 

Additionally, the new policy “does not allow direct questioning of the parties and witnesses by the advisor of the other party during a hearing.” 

The new policy was created as a complement to the University’s preexisting Title IX policy after national changes last May narrowed the University’s jurisdiction in sexual assault cases, Davis wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Davis conferred with Brown community members, University governance bodies and several campus offices — including the Office of Campus Life, University Human Resources, the Dean of Faculty Office and the Office of General Counsel — to create the new policy. 

“The students I discussed the policy with before it was adopted were positive about the policy, especially its coverage of specific off-campus behaviors and the change in how cross-examination takes place,” Davis wrote. 

Still, while some students believe that the policy itself is a step in the right direction, they believe there is more work to be done to change campus culture.

“The new Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct Policy is fantastic,” said Amanda Cooper ’22, who works as an outreach coordinator for Voices of Brown — an Instagram account where students can submit stories of sexual violence to be published anonymously on the page.

The new policy holds the University more responsible for cases of sexual misconduct beyond its legal obligations, Cooper said. Previously, the University was not obligated to address incidents of sexual misconduct between students that occur in locations not officially overseen by Brown, such as off-campus residences. 

Nina Faynshtayn ’24, a co-organizer of End Sexual Violence @ Brown, a coalition of campus groups working to ending sexual assault and support survivors, largely agreed that the new policy is a positive development. “It expands important components and definitions that should theoretically improve the reporting system of the University and its approach toward sexual violence,” she wrote in an email to The Herald, adding that “most elements of the new policy are essentially positive or at least trying to be.”

But Faynshtayn also thinks that the University should be doing more to prevent sexual assault on campus and protect survivors. “The policy alone cannot replace real structural changes that should be made throughout the University,” she wrote.  

She wrote that the University needs to make its policies and its reporting process more transparent by increasing the readability of the Title IX website and creating additional roles to support and guide students through the reporting process. 

Faynshtayn also called upon the University to provide more support systems and resources for survivors of sexual assault, including increased funding for programs such as BWell’s Sexual Assault Peer Education. The University, she added, should create more forums for feedback from community members and survivors so that it is not “a few members of the community assuming what would be best for survivors.” 

In a February email to The Herald in response to a student demonstration against the University’s handling of sexual assault on campus, University Spokesperson Brian Clark reaffirmed Brown’s commitment to implementing trainings, strengthening and unifying Title IX policy and creating a culture of accountability on campus. 

“Brown has made it an institutional priority to create an environment in which no incident of sexual violence is tolerated, and the experiences and perspective(s) of students and others impacted by sexual violence have been instrumental in informing the actions we’ve taken,” Clark wrote.

Faynshtayn would also like to see a more empathetic campus culture around sexual assault, including increased accommodation options for survivors of sexual assault and mandatory anti-racist and anti-sexual violence trainings to be given to students each semester. It’s “not just policies that will create such systems, but also the genuine care and support provided by other members of the community, whether it be staff or peers,” Faynshtayn wrote. 

“I don't think the community's needs are being met in full because there are survivors across campus who are being ignored and suffering,” Faynshtayn wrote. “We need to ensure that we get to a place where all survivors are being supported in full and the community is held fully accountable.”

Though many of the changes Faynshtayn would like to see implemented “have been circulating among groups of survivors for significant amounts of time,” they have not yet been prioritized by administration. The University needs to both improve its communication platforms and listen to these student groups, Faynshtayn added. 

“We remain resolute in our commitment to preventing and responding to incidents” of sexual and gender-based misconduct, Clark wrote, noting “aggressive” actions the University has taken since 2014 to confront sexual violence on campus, including training students, faculty and staff cross campus on sexual violence prevention, requiring related education for first-year students and launching and supporting peer education programs. 

“(We are) encouraging a culture in which every member of the Brown community takes responsibility for addressing this challenge and supporting those who are most directly impacted,” he added.

Despite being optimistic about what is included in the new policy, both Cooper and Faynshtayn expressed doubt and uncertainty in the policy’s ability to fundamentally change campus culture around sexual assault. 

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Cooper said. “I don’t think any one policy or any one rule can completely aid in eradicating the pervasiveness of sexual violence and sexual assault on campus.” 

Cooper said she believes that the University should design more educational programs that help students identify what constitutes sexual harassment and violence.

Going forward, the University should listen to survivors and their needs,” Faynshtayn wrote. “While the policy may improve the reporting system, it will not change the culture and community that is currently present on campus. We need to work toward both preventing sexual violence and supporting those who have experienced it.



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