We are in the red zone. From the first day of class to Thanksgiving break, college students face an elevated risk of being sexually assaulted, according to a 2007 study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. First-year students report more cases of sexual misconduct during their fall semester than during the spring one, and younger students report more cases than their older peers.
Prior to the start of this academic year, Kenyon instituted a new investigator model for adjudicating sexual misconduct cases, which replaces the student conduct review board that previously heard cases against students. The College also adopted a single sexual misconduct policy, replacing distinct policies for students, staff and faculty.
Amid these changes, we decided to center our first issue of the year around the topic of sexual misconduct, because we think it has a major bearing on student well-being. We did not make this decision lightly. We don’t wish to be alarmist, but rather are presenting the following stories with a solemn recognition that Kenyon is far from immune to sexual misconduct. We invited the heads of the Sexual Misconduct Advisors to sit in on interviews we did with survivors of sexual assault. We educated our editors on reporting on sexual violence with information from Columbia University’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and we consulted ethics experts at the Society of Professional Journalists.
But this issue isn’t a one-off. We will continue to look into, and report, stories about sexual assault. It is not an easy task. We wanted to report certain stories this week for which we had insufficient on-the-record information. Federal law and College policy make it difficult to gather information about sexual assault cases at Kenyon, but we believe the community deserves to know about them. At the same time, we try to avoid reporting stories that would shed undue light on individual cases and that don’t have redeeming public-interest value.
We want to hear from our readers about the issues presented in these articles, which is why the Collegian, along with several SMAs, will host a public forum today from 5 to 6 p.m. in Ascension’s Philomathesian lecture hall to talk about how we as a community can best address sexual misconduct at Kenyon.