Sexual misconduct: Full changes sent to faculty

After initially considering more minor changes to the Institute’s policy on sexual misconduct, the Division of Student Affairs presented a major change of the policy to the Faculty Rules and Regulations Committee last Wednesday.

The initially considered version of the policy included only changes required by the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, while the policy that went to Rules and Regulations also included having a set of sanctions that has to be considered for different violations (first considered sanctions), removing the Undergraduate Judicial Cabinet (UJC) as an option for sexual misconduct cases and altering the appeals process.

Last July, John Stein, Dean of Students, formed a Committee to examine Tech’s policies on sexual misconduct and recommend changes based on new requirements from the Campus SaVE Act and best practices.

The committee included representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students, Legal Affairs, the Office of Student Integrity (OSI) and the Women’s Resource Center, as well as representatives from other institute departments and several student representatives.

In early April, a recommended draft was written and reviewed by the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs and others in Student Affairs.

According to an e-mail sent by Colleen Riggle, Director of the Women’s Resource Center, a decision was made to move forward with just the edits based on compliance with the SaVE Act and a new version with just these changes was sent to the committee members in the same e-mail.

“After some conversations today, it was decided edits based on compliance and Campus SaVe would be brought forward and further conversations would be had this summer for all the other recommended changes we, as a committee have recommended,” the e-mail said.

“And so there were conversations originally that we would move forward with the compliance only standards [but] we ended up being able to move forward with the policy that the committee put together, which was a little bit more extensive than the campus SaVE policy,” said Melanie DeMaeyer, Program Coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center.

“We had some discussions about that but I would say nothing was done other than determining yes we want to do this and moving forward the whole thing forward,” said William Schafer, Vice President of Student Affairs. “There were discussions, again, it’s very normal, I think, to talk about what’s federally mandated and then what other kinds of important sections do you want to include in the new policy document.”

President G.P. “Bud” Peterson’s input on the issue was important in moving the entire policy forward.

“[We] wanted to be sure the President was on board to support all these, so we had conversations with him and he helped us move them forward,” Schafer said.

The final policy was approved by Student Affairs and sent to the Faculty Committee on Rules and Regulations last Wednesday. The policy will presented to the full Faculty Senate for final approval next Tuesday.

One of the biggest changes in the policy was the addition of what are called first considered sanctions. If the respondent is found responsible for a violation, the administrator in charge of the investigation must first consider the first considered sanction for that offense. If that sanction is not ultimately delivered, he or she must provide a written explanation of that decision. The first considered sanction for non-consensual sexual intercourse is expulsion.

“The goal there is, I think twofold,” said Peter Paquette, Director of OSI. “One is to be transparent but also, it does send a message about how Georgia Tech views these acts.”

Another major change to the policy was that sexual misconduct violations will no longer go to the UJC, a student body that hears a number of student integrity cases each year.

“I’m not sure you could say a worst-case, or worst practice, but it’s looked down upon to have a student panel for several reasons,” said Emma Bones, a student representative on the policy committee. “[First], it’s very intimidating for victims to go before a panel and have to share their story with a bunch of their peers. [Second], many times these panels are formed of students and students do not always have the gravitas, much less the training to handle these [cases]…”

Other changes from the previous policy include the addition of a three person board to hear appeals, the changing of a number of definitions and items required by the Campus SaVE Act.