by Sarah Lehr
Hearings under the current Student Conduct Review Board (SCRB) system of reviewing sexual misconduct cases have lasted as long as 10 or 12 hours each, according to Dean of Students Hank Toutain. Recently, however, multiple branches of Kenyon government including Campus Senate, Faculty Council and Student Council have passed a new sexual misconduct policy which will replace the current hearing model with an investigator model.
The hearings policy requires that complainant and respondent meet in a room with upwards of 15 people, including witnesses and the staff and students who serve on the SCRB. This process can be daunting due to the intimate and painful details being shared, according to Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Samantha Hughes. Toutain believes the numerous amount of people present at a hearing increases the likelihood that someone, particularly a student, will break confidentiality.
Going forward, the College will likely work with two investigators. At least one investigator must be a Kenyon staff or faculty member. Hughes said the new policy reflects a need for at least one of the investigators to be familiar with Kenyon culture. “If a student says, ‘It happened at the Milks,’ for example, the investigator will know what that means,” she said.
Toutain said investigators will have extensive training, which is necessary given the difficult nature of sexual misconduct cases.
Kenyon’s investigator model does not uphold the right of the accused to meet the accuser face-to-face, unlike in most U.S. criminal trials. This could encourage survivors to come forward without fear of confrontation. President Sean Decatur says that such a policy is in keeping with recommendations from the U.S. Board of Education. “The College isn’t a court of law,” he said. “The dramatic confrontation between claimant and respondent on law and order really doesn’t have a place in a college process.” Toutain emphasized that the new policy will keep both the complainant and respondent informed at every step. “Both parties will have access to the same information and the same rights to use consultation,” he said.
In keeping with updates to the Violence Against Women Act and other federal legislation, the new policy also provides expanded definitions and makes students aware of where they can obtain resources such as rape kit tests.
Campus Senate co-chair and SCRB member Conrad Jacober ’15 said he cautiously approves of the intent behind the new policy, but that he has misgivings. Jacober said the resulting document reflects inconsistencies, and in particular lacks coherency when explaining the prohibited sexual relationships between people with unequal power such as a Community Advisor and a resident, or a department chair and a professor in their department, Campus Senate passed the new policy with the provison that the Senate revisit it in a year. The timeline for the policy’s implementation remains vague. Decatur will present the policy to trustees during their board meeting this week.