Section: archive

Senate Review Sexual Misconduct Policy

By Grace Hitzeman

Campus Senate opened its quadrennial review of the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy in a forum on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Students and administrators offered insights and concerns for Senate to consider as it updates the policy.

The Senate implemented the current policy, which covers sexual assault, inappropriate sexual touching, endangering the health of another person and sexual harassment, in the spring of 2000. It has since been reviewed twice.

Judicial Affairs Coordinator Samantha Hughes said the goal of Tuesday’s forum was “to discuss how Kenyon could revise the policy to encourage students who feel like they have been violated to come forward.”

Director of Counseling Patrick Gilligan agreed that victims of sexual misconduct have been reluctant to exercise the judicial action embedded in the policy. “People haven’t really used our judicial process to deal with sexual assault,” he said.

Under the current policy, Kenyon’s Judicial Board, a committee of students and faculty, may decide whether a sexual encounter that is not classified by the Sexual Misconduct Policy constitutes misconduct. According to the policy, the Board has the right to assign penalties in situations “where neither person gave verbal consent and where both people were clearly active in initiating and participating in all forms of sexual relations that occurred.”

The issue of verbal consent was the most hotly contested item during Tuesday’s forum, which came in the wake of a recent debate about consent that raged in the Collegian’s Opinions section.

Many students at the forum called for clear examples of proper consent in the revised policy, as well as the addition of an honor code to the current policy. “Having an honor code would be a really good way of connecting the student body to the policy,” Paul Dougherty ’13 said.

Dougherty also suggested the introduction of an honor code during first-year orientation “similar to the talk on plagiarism, because in many ways it’s kind of small potatoes compared to sexual assault, but we don’t address it as seriously as we could.”

“I love Real World: Gambier,” Dougherty said. “I think it did a fantastic job of showing a positive sexual experience this year, but it’s not enough.”

During the forum, Gilligan asked if the current policy is responsive enough to the types of misconduct that most frequently occur here at Kenyon.

In response, students pointed out that the policy’s use of the term “rape” to define a wide spectrum of sexual assaults makes victims uncomfortable.

According to a Letter to the Editor by Sexual Misconduct Advisor Julia Steinberg ’12 (Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011), “23 percent of [Kenyon] students have experienced sexual misconduct on campus.” Kenyon has gone seven years without a sexual assault hearing, according to Gilligan.

He suggested that revising the policy to make students more comfortable with judicial action might require restructuring the Judicial Board.

“If you were going to a Judicial Board hearing, would you rather be facing a board of peers and faculty members or a board filled with staff and administrators?” Gilligan asked.

Leaders of Tuesday’s forum cautioned students to be measured in their proposed amendments. “The policy that gets developed here will be in place for the next four years,” Gilligan said.

Campus Senate will hold another forum on the same topic Thursday, Nov. 17 in the Bemis Music Room at 11:00 a.m.

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