Campus / News / April 8, 2014

Mandatory reporting sparks debate

Faculty and administration clashed over the school’s interpretation of Title IX — disagreeing in particular over requiring faculty members who learn of a possible incidence of sexual assault to report it even if it is told to them in confidence — at this week’s faculty meeting.

The meeting was unusually long, lasting three hours. Although faculty continued to trickle away as it went on, roughly two dozen stayed until the very end of the discussions.

The matter at hand was Federal Title IX legislation. Under that law, Knox, and all schools that receive federal funding, are required to investigate all incidents that they should have “reasonably known about.”

The heart of the dispute lies in the interpretation of that phrase.

Knox currently interprets it to mean that all faculty and staff members of the school, with the exception of three confidential counselors, must inform a trained member of the Title IX team if a student tells them that he or she has been assaulted. From that point, the Title IX team contacts the student and moves forward with an investigation.

The administration argues that mandatory reporting is necessary to ensure that the school is able to identify and deal with the small number of serial assaulters who compromise the majority of sexual assault on this campus.

“We want to break the culture of silence on this campus,” President Teresa Amott said. She argues that the school has a duty to protect all of its students by finding these repeat offenders and that mandatory reporting requirements are helping them to do that.

Amott also mentioned that all schools equivalent to Knox that she has looked at have similar mandatory reporting policies in place.

She further pointed to some new policies designed to help accommodate survivors, including allowing them to not attend the disciplinary hearing if they do not wish to.

A large number of students came to the meeting to in a show of opposition to mandatory reporting.

Senior Kayla Kennedy read a letter that alleged the school’s interpretation of mandatory reporting “silences survivors” of sexual assault.

“Rape,” she said, “is fundamentally about power and control. Demanding that all professors, staff and RAs be mandatory reporters strips survivors of all power and control over if, when and how they wish to report.”

The letter argued that mandatory reporting actually interfered with Title IX compliance because of the unhealthy atmosphere it created on campus.

“If survivors cannot own their deeply personal and political experiences without those experiences being automatically subject to administrative review, then their access to full participation in classes is traumatically limited.”

“We have to preserve safe spaces for students,” concluded Kennedy, requesting a reduction in the amount of mandatory reporters on campus.

The students’ concerns were echoed by many faculty members.

Professor of Chemistry Mary Crawford, for example, spoke of “fear” and “broken trust.” She said that students who once were able to talk to her are now afraid to that she is a mandatory reporter.

“We’ve been their voices, we’ve been their advocates. … You’re taking that voice away.”

Echoing these sentiments, Professor of Political Science Karen Kampwirth said the policy created “lots of bad feeling, feelings of distrust.”

Instructor of Gender and Women’s Studies Kelly Shaw said that she has already seen students who were about to tell her something but then stop once they are reminded that she is a mandatory reporter.

Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser criticized the small number of confidential counselors available and wondered why there weren’t more.

“I don’t understand why students can’t have that,” he said.

Others mentioned that they felt not enough was being done to tell students when they even have something they should report. Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Nathalie Hauberg said, “There is a gap in the education.”

That is true of faculty members as well. Some did not know that they could fill out an anonymous reporting form (known as a John Doe/Jane Doe report) that protects student privacy while still helping to create accurate data as required by federal Cleary Law requirements.

Amott acknowledged the student concerns and said that “it is painful to hear student say that they feel they’ve been silenced,” but continued to maintain that mandatory reporting is the best policy for the campus.

“I am not going to retract the policy here at this faculty meeting,” she stated firmly.

She did say that the possibility of adding more confidential counselors could be looked into.

Another concern is that if the Office of Civil Rights were to be displeased with Knox’s Title IX compliance, the school could lose all of its federal funding. Amott hastened to mention that this has never happened, but it remains a possibility that the school needs to be aware of.

Read the full text of Kennedy’s address to faculty and administrators

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

Tags:  faculty meeting mandatory reporting sexual assualt Teresa Amott title ix

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Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.




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  • Lori Schroeder

    [The following response was sent to the students who expressed concerns about Knox sexual harassment policy at the April 7 faculty meeting.]

    All,

    On behalf of all of us working toward a campus free from sexual
    harassment, especially from sexual violence, we thank all of the students who presented a statement of concern at the April 7th faculty meeting. It is quite clear that you care deeply and rightly so about the needs of sexual assault survivors and we respect the leadership students have taken on these issues for years at Knox. As President Amott stressed later at the same meeting, responding to the safety and needs of survivors is at the heart of the policy that expects all faculty and staff to report incidents of sexual harassment to the Title IX Team. We are trying to change the culture of silence, replacing it with a culture of responsibility at both the individual and institutional levels. Making campus a safe place for all of us is a job for each of us.

    While it is clear that we have the same goal, it is also clear that we disagree about how the College’s support can best be mobilized to
    achieve this goal. Our first step was to develop a policy that includes an
    expectation that all employees report incidents of sexual harassment. Most liberal arts colleges of our size and with similar missions have that policy, as do many of the nation’s top institutions that are committed to the safety of all of their students. But we know that policy never changes culture, so we have also been working (mainly through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force) to put in place everything else that is so crucial. Significant steps have already been taken, for instance, to bolster counseling support systems on campus; to make information on sexual assault response options more readily available; to increase educational measures for faculty, staff and students; to implement bystander training. But it will take time to get all of these systems in place, and you have our pledge that they will indeed be
    put in place and sustained over the coming years. At the same time, the
    concerns of students for more and different forms of support for survivors are being listened to and we will continue to work through the Task Force and other forums to make sure that students are included in the decisions being made about what forms of support for survivors are put in place over the coming weeks and months.

    Lori Schroeder,
    Title IX Coordinator

    Title IX Team
    members: Catherine Denial, Laura Schnack, Kim Schrader, Gina Zindt, John Schlaf, Cassidy Voyles

    Deb Southern, Dean
    of Students

    Teresa Amott,
    President



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