The newest employee for the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX is Deputy Coordinator Kevin Peterson from Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU).
On March 2, a Kenyon News Bulletin announced via email the hiring of Peterson, who will work with Samantha Hughes, Kenyon’s civil rights/Title IX coordinator. Peterson will take over for Linda Smolak, who has served as part-time deputy coordinator since 2015.
“Peterson will assist in review of the College’s practices and policies to ensure continued compliance with Title IX and other federal regulations,” according to the email. Peterson previously worked at MVNU as a resident director and adjunct faculty member.
One of the Office of Civil Rights’ responsibilities is leading training sessions for faculty, student employees and student groups throughout the year. These training sessions are intended to educate Kenyon employees of their responsibilities with respect to the policies from the Office of Civil Rights. The faculty training sessions are 30 minutes longer than the student training sessions, which last one hour.
Professors, however, tend to view their role under the Title IX policy in different ways.
All employees are mandatory reporters according to the College’s Title IX policy. The policy requires employees of the College to notify the Office of Civil Rights if a student reports a Title IX offense, including sexual or discriminatory harassment, assault and intimate partner violence.
Samuel B. Cummings Professor of Psychology Sarah Murnen believes the emphasis Kenyon’s Title IX policy places on consent is a strength. “I think we’ve done a good job communicating [consent] and we have great processes in place,” she said. Murnen is also an investigator for Title IX cases at the College. The responsibilities of investigators include interviewing the complainant and respondent as well as gathering evidence that may be relevant for the case.
Hughes acknowledges the “full range of generations represented” among the faculty. Professors from the Gen X and baby boomer generations may not be as familiar with some of the language and nuances of the policy. Hughes, who identifies as a member of Gen X, says personal pronouns were not openly discussed when she was a college student in the ’90s.
Professor of Humanities Tim Shutt is wary of the liability of the College’s employees under the Title IX policy.
“I think the recent deal to abandon the ‘innocent until proven guilty standard’ uniquely for this sort of offense when… all other crimes you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “Why is this especially heinous? I think this standard is unconstitutional.”
Shutt added that he holds his office hours in Philomathesian Lecture Hall in Ascension Hall to avoid any possibility of accusations from students. “I do not want to be in any place but a public space with anyone,” Shutt said.
Peterson, who will start his position on June 1, looks forward to working at Kenyon, where students from different faiths and backgrounds “can be fully part of the campus community and are accepted,” he said. Hughes stated that the feedback from the students who were involved in the interview process was very positive. Peterson’s background is in Title IX, residential life and programming as well as in mission work.
MVNU is a Christian institution and a “dry campus” with regards to alcohol consumption, but, Peterson believes the cultures at MVNU and Kenyon still share similarities. Peterson believes “anything that happens at Kenyon also happens at MVNU.”