By Miguel Gonzalez
The College’s Committee on Student and Campus Community announced revisions to the Title IX policy, Involuntary Health or Safety Withdrawal policy and Student Conduct Code and introduced a student travel policy on Thursday, Aug. 30.
The College’s Title IX policy received the most revisions, including two new resolution process options for investigations pertaining to Title IX.
Option one focuses on administrative hearing for cases involving student respondents. In the Title IX policy, the College defines the reporter as the student who “is alleged to have experienced an act of prohibited conduct.”
The College defines the respondent as the student who is “subject to an investigation, procedural requirements including proceedings, remedial measures and/or sanctions” based on the file report.
The procedure for option one allows both the reporter and respondent to provide information about the incident while the College’s Title IX Coordinator compiles the Title IX investigation report. Once the Title IX investigation report is finished, the assistant vice president reviews it to ensure it has been thoroughly executed, according to the College’s Title IX policy. Afterward, the assistant vice president decides if the investigation will move to the hearing administrator.
Jordan Draper, the dean of students and the College’s Title IX coordinator, emphasizes that while option one and the preexisting second option allow both the reporter and the respondent to equally provide information, option one opens more opportunities for due process.
“Option one was added to the Title IX process to be compliant with recent guidelines and litigation, and is the College’s default resolution process, specifically because it offers both students involved the greatest amount of due process,” Draper said.
According to the College’s Title IX policy, option two utilizes the investigatory model. After the investigation report is gathered, the “lead investigator will make a determination of responsibility based on a “more likely than not’ standard to determine whether a violation of the Policy occurred,” according to the College’s Title IX policy.
The College will also institute option three, the alternative resolution for cases involving student respondents. According to the College’s Title IX policy, option three “is a voluntary process that allows the respondent to accept responsibility for their behavior.”
In this option, the reporter and the respondent enter into a resolution process through the guidance of the Title IX coordinator.
Afterward, the reporter and the respondent can use restorative processes to mediate the conflict. These processes include a formal restorative process, an informal restorative conference and informal restorative statements. Additionally, the College outlines more remedial options such as counseling sessions, monthly check-in meetings with the Title IX Coordinator and community service. Draper asserts that option three was created in a response to feedback from students, anti-violence initiative staff and investigators.
“Information was collected, both through quantitative and qualitative feedback, in which some reporters shared that they wanted non-punitive options to hold respondents accountable,” Draper said. “The alternative resolution process was then drafted and vetted through previous reporters, AVI staff and peer educators, general counsel, Campus Police and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office.”
Draper also affirms how the restorative process is meant to identify who was harmed and how to move forward. She explained that the process is more educational and supportive, rather than confrontational.
“Prior to adding this resolution option, we did not have a process which allowed for a more educational approach, and students either had the option to pursue a formal/punitive option, or nothing at all,” Draper said. “We feel this option provides students with greater autonomy and the ability to determine what exactly they need to feel as though the harm has been acknowledged and reparations have been made.”
During the initial testing of the alternative resolution last October, Draper saw positive feedback from both reporters and respondents. Draper hopes that the alternative resolution option provides reassurance for reporters who wish to pursue a Title IX investigation.
“It is our hope that through continued promotion of this resolution option, and the more feedback we receive, the more reporters will feel comfortable coming to speak to our office about the multiple options for resolution of Title IX incidents, and the better we will be able to continuously improve students’ overall experience as they go utilize Title IX processes,” Draper said.
In the revised student conduct code, the All College Standards Board will no longer be a formal hearing option in the procedural standards of the College’s Title IX Policy.
According to the College’s student travel policy document, the new policy sets guidelines to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff during off-campus trips during an organized or a College-sponsored event, and sets standards for student organizations seeking authorization requests and expectations for travel behavior.
According to the College, there are three types of travel. Academic-related student travel pertains to students traveling for “professional conferences, class field trips and course assignments,” such as a community engaged learning trip.
The student travel policy also establishes the role of appropriate administrators and designated officials for campus organizations.
Recognized student organization travel refers to student organizations traveling for conferences, activities and events funded by the Student Finance Board and Student Activities Fund, while administrative-sponsored travel refers to which are trips that are not academic-related or connected to recognized student organizations.