President Margee Ensign has sent the following statement to the Dickinson community:
To the Dickinson Community:
I want to update you on the results of our conversations with the student protesters. Listed below for the community’s information are their demands and our responses, to date. Our conversations will continue, but I wanted to let the community know where we are.
Starting with the second sentence first, we agree that any individual found responsible for more than one incident of sexual assault is not fit to be a part of our community. We fully support expulsion in this instance. The first sentence creates more challenges, because each case is so nuanced that a hard rule of punishment will likely create challenges. This is especially true given the very broad range of actions that can be deemed sexual assault, as well as attempted sexual assault. We fully support appropriate sanctions based on the act committed. We will include in our policy more definitions on the range of actions deemed sexual assault as well as establish minimum sanctions for each. This has been added as an agenda item for the next Presidential Working Group on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX meeting. Our goal is to create effective policy language to be more transparent.
We are committed to completing investigations within 60 business days. Simply saying 60 days is problematic because if the parties are unavailable because of breaks in the academic calendar when students are away from campus, this timeframe becomes nearly impossible to meet. We do believe the vast majority should be completed within 60 business days. One way we are assessing the potential for meeting this goal is by hiring a full-time investigator. By relying on a professional internal investigator to solely conduct or oversee a team of internal and/or outside investigators, we believe we will greatly expedite an investigation. Of course, we need to engage our budget office to assess the plausibility of re-allocating financial resources away from other priorities and toward hiring such a professional. We have started those conversations.
In those unavoidable situations when a case cannot be thoroughly investigated within that time period, we are committed to keeping the students informed of any delay and the reason for it.
We will update our policy to reflect this change in practice.
We agree that students should have a voice when there are substantive changes made to the policy. In fact, this already exists given students are a part of the Presidential Working Group on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX. However, and as a part of our existing governance system, Student Senate is also an appropriate body to participate in this process. Therefore, we will share any substantive changes to the policy with Student Senate, and they will be provided a 60-day window of opportunity to review and comment unless a governmental agency requires that we respond more quickly. While we cannot allow an outright ability to amend any policy provisions, especially considering some provisions may be legally mandated or based upon sound national best practices, we not only welcome engaging dialogue as a part of the process but we will provide a response regarding any recommended edits that are not deemed feasible.
In addition, these changes will be reported to the all-college Enrollment & Student Life Committee (ESLC) which includes faculty elected by their peers and students. ESLC will provide feedback and report out to the faculty meeting.
We agree to this in part. Parties should be able to access their information, and they are granted access to view the final investigative report anytime they want via a database that allows view-only privileges. However, providing copies of all documents can have unintended consequences—and in some instances even violate privacy rights. It can also deter participation, as some witnesses actively refuse to provide a statement if we are not willing to provide any assurance of confidentiality. Therefore, before some documents are produced, we may have an obligation to redact or remove certain personally identifiable information and other highly sensitive documents (like medical records, for instance) that it would be unlawful to disclose without the express written permission of the disclosing party. While our current policy provides a good overview of how we handle disclosure, we will review the policy and determine how best to strengthen and clarify it to meet this need as closely as we reasonably can.
We currently provide data in two different reports, the Title IX office report that is found on their departmental landing page as well as the annual security (Clery) report that is found on the Department of Public Safety’s “Crime Information” page. These reports provide data that are similar in some respects and different in others (the Clery report must comply with federal regulations, whereas the Title IX report is not required by law but provided as an effort at campus transparency).
We are open to suggestions about what might be added to the report and how to best share this information.
We are committed to accurate reporting. In the rare instance where something is found to be inaccurate in a report, we promptly correct the record, as we are required to do by law. We are going to create a Clery committee to look at our processes for data gathering and reporting to make sure that there are proper checks and balances.
We will immediately change our policy to require written permission from the parties before the no contact directive is removed.
The reality is these boxes are rarely used, and a cursory review of our records reflect that we have not received any calls on them in several years. But we are clear that your and our primary concern is student safety. We will commit to checking the blue lights every semester to ensure they remain operational. We will also investigate more effective ways to meet this safety concern. College campuses are increasingly deploying safety apps for cellular phones. These apps allow for one-button push ability to call the Department of Public Safety or 911, as well as other features such as providing the exact location of the student should the student choose to activate this locator feature, and the ability to engage in direct dialogue with safety officials about a myriad of concerns. We commit to searching for products that we can deploy, and working with our budget office to identify adequate financial resources to cover this expense.
We agree that a person that has been found responsible for committing the act of rape should be expelled, and we will amend our policy immediately from the currently listed sanction of a minimum of one-year suspension up to expulsion to reflect an automatic expulsion.
We agree to annual surveys. Our current practice with campus climate surveys is to use a 3rd-party vendor to implement the surveys, and we intend to continue this practice to help ensure anonymity of those who respond. The 3rd party vendor will also conduct the analysis of the findings to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. We will involve students in reviewing the analysis and helping to disseminate the information to campus.
We already have mechanisms in place, especially within the Faculty and Student handbook, to address and where necessary discipline a lack of professionalism and misconduct of faculty members. Complaints about faculty conduct can be made to the faculty member’s department chair, faculty advisors, the associate provosts, the provost, and a third-party web portal. We will assess how we can effectively infuse trauma informed training for the faculty. We will also make sure our sexual harassment and misconduct policy clearly articulates the professionalism and trauma informed training expectations for all employees.
This request would not be feasible for a myriad of reasons. We will include in the list of resources that we currently provide to all parties contact information for free and/or low cost locally available legal assistance. We will not provide lawyers, however, because of challenges including ensuring the adequacy of the lawyers and the conflict-of-interest for a lawyer paid by the college. The cost to the college would also be significant, and would divert funds from other important initiatives requested by the students here.
We are absolutely willing to do this, and amend the policy to reflect this as a standard practice, but we have to balance this level of updating with the express desires of the individuals involved. While some may welcome weekly updates, others may consider it overly frustrating and traumatizing. Therefore, flexibility will have to be employed, while ensuring that we maintain ongoing compliance with the mandatory notice requirements in the federal Title IX regulations. We will also look at establishing a portal on which students can check for updates when they choose.
We agree with this and will move students when there is a conflict with the person continuing to do the job during the investigation.
We are concerned that there could be a perceived conflict with trauma counselors working in, and assumedly reporting to, the Title IX Office. We currently have YWCA trauma counselors with office hours on campus in Allison Hall to support survivors. We also have the 24/7 Dickinson Advocacy Hotline which provides an advocate from the YWCA to meet students on campus. We will engage in discussions with them about the possibility of expanding their services. We will also have our Wellness Center review this request to determine if they can expand their services.
We currently do counsel and, when necessary, punish violators of these directives. We will revise the policy to clearly list the range of punishments, such as interim suspensions or even arrests, that are possible. This will be on the agenda for the next Presidential Working Group on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX meeting.
Agreed, and we will update our policy to reflect this. This will be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX. We will also expand definitions of various forms of sexual misconduct.
Margee M. Ensign
Published February 4, 2020