Section: News

College to release proposed sexual misconduct policy

by Emily Sakamoto

Kenyon’s current sexual misconduct hearing structure will be replaced next semester with an investigator model, as well as other changes to the policy, according to the newly updated 47-page harassment and violence policy presented to the Student Council on Sunday evening by Dean of Students Hank Toutain. The document is the result of changes to the Clery Act as well as the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 and changes to Title IX.

Toutain said the reasons for the proposed policy changes are “really being driven by changes in federal law or guidelines or expectations” and not due to specific Kenyon-related incidents, such as the 2013 sexual misconduct case involving former student Stephen Zingarelli.

The two largest changes are the implementation of an umbrella policy for staff, students and administrators, and the replacement of the current hearing model with an investigative one.

Currently, staff, students and faculty are each subject to specific types of conduct review boards and processes specific to their affiliation with the College. According to Linda Smolak, interim Title IX coordinator, a review board on behalf of a faculty member has never been called in Kenyon’s history.

Comments from the community concerning confusion over the current sexual misconduct policies were also a factor in this revision. According to Samantha Hughes, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the College began to discuss possible changes after the April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which was issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and was among the first government directives on college sexual misconduct policy.

The change from a hearing model to an investigator model makes up a large portion of the revised sexual misconduct policy. A committee has been looking at the merits of investigative versus hearing models since last academic year, according to Smolak.

The current hearing model mimics a courtroom and requires both the complainant and respondent to be present, as well as a compiled board of students and faculty to review the case. Kenyon uses the term “complainant” instead of “accuser”, and “respondent” instead of “defendant.” An investigator model would require two investigators — employees of the College hired specifically for the task — to take on the bulk of investigating the cases brought to Hughes as reported cases of sexual misconduct. The investigative model does not require a board to review the case nor does it require the complainant and respondent’s testimony to be heard before a panel. As of now, the College is attempting to close cases 60 days after they are reported, in line with mandates from the Clery Act, although this has become a soft deadline.

“Why Kenyon is considering [the investigative model] is based upon feedback we’ve gotten from students who have had to use the process,” Hughes said. “It lessens the number of times they have to tell their story.”

“Some members of the SMAs [Sexual Misconduct Advisors] were in discussion in 2014 about implementing that [investigator model],” Charlie Collison ’15, an SMA, said. “I think it should be a good change.”

Despite the policy’s distribution to both Student Council and Campus Senate earlier this week, the new sexual misconduct policy guide will not be enacted until at least next semester and had not been released to the public as of press time. It must pass a final check through the Board of Trustees at their spring meeting on campus in April and be signed by President Sean Decatur.

The new policy specifically outlines that it “applies to all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, including intimate partner violence, stalking, bullying and retaliation.” According to Smolak, the emphasis on stalking and the broad range of relationships is new.

“It’s really specific that stalking and domestic violence and dating violence are included now,” Smolak said. The policy covers student, faculty and staff relationships. The College’s current policy “strongly discourages” relationships that involve power differentials, such as those between students and staff, faculty or administrators. The revised policy proposes that these relationships are prohibited and may end in termination of employment for the individual involved who is employed by the College.

The revised policy has been in the making for four years, according to Hughes. Today,  a survey and the 47-page document will be sent to students. Feedback from the survey will be incorporated into the policy before it is presented to the board and Decatur for final approval in April.


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