Campus / News / April 10, 2014

Full text of statement to faculty, administrators on mandatory reporting

On Monday, senior Kayla Kennedy, joined by senior Gabrielle Rajerison and junior Allie Fry, addressed the faculty and administration on the dangers of mandatory reporting of sexual assault and harassment for all college employees. Following is the full text of their statement:

The college has recently decided that all professors, staff, and RAs are mandated reporters of sexual harassment and assault.

Rape 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 executive director of the Association for Title IX administrators has called this across-the-board mandating an “overreaction to the Education Department’s [“Dear Colleague”] letter” that is “not desirable, legally required, or good for victims.”

Under this mandate, survivors lose all ownership over their own experiences because they are no longer free to voice those experiences in class discussions or even in written assignments. This denial of participation is a direct violation of Title IX, which ensures that all students, regardless of sex, must be allowed equal access to education. 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. This policy silences survivors.

Sexual violence takes time to process. Every survivor deserves the space they need to process trauma on their own terms. Denying survivors, especially those students who are not certain or ready to identify themselves as such, safe spaces to process their experiences privately, without the threat of an investigation in which they are at risk of being re-victimized, is not only inhibiting to students’ ability to engage with academic and campus life — it is oppressive.

Students are now limited to confiding in 1 of 3 counselors, who are notoriously overbooked, who are all white, and with whom students may not have an established, trusting relationship. Every survivor has the right to speak in confidence with someone whom they feel safe with, whom they identify with, and whom they trust. The health & counseling center cannot become the only place in which students can talk confidentially about their experiences. This is an irresponsible move, especially considering that the center itself has been called into question time and time again by students who feel it is not a safe or accessible resource.

We are asking that Knox not only obey the law but prioritize students’ safety and well-being. Under the Clery Act, many employees of the college are exempt from mandatory reporting, including women’s centers and faculty who do not supervise clubs. We have to preserve safe spaces for students. We are not asking that no one be a mandatory reporter. We are asking that not EVERYONE be a mandatory reporter. Neither model serves students.

As our professors, advisors, and mentors, we are asking you to keep our academic spaces safe spaces. Keep survivors at the forefront. Understand the gravity of what is at stake. This policy silences and erases survivors, pushing them to the margins. We also ask that as policy undergoes changes, you maintain transparency in your classrooms. Students have a right to know if you are a mandated reporter, what exactly you must report, and what will happen to them after you report. Thank you for your time.


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Editor’s note: Gabrielle Rajerison is a copy editor for The Knox Student.

TKS Staff

Tags:  Knox College mandatory reporting sexual assault sexual harassment title ix

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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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