Discourse / Editorials / May 7, 2014

Thoughts from the Embers: Make Knox a model for transparency

Last week, Knox was unceremoniously flung into the national spotlight after it was named among the 55 colleges and universities being investigated for Title IX violations. Now, it’s up toEmbers the college to set a standard for transparency in how it handles reports of sexual assault.

Knox certainly has explicit policies and procedures regarding its response to sexual assault reports, but the final outcome of internal investigations is shrouded in secrecy. The college is bound by privacy laws that protect all students, victims and perpetrators alike, but there are ways the college can be more open with the student body while still protecting that right – which is of utmost importance.

Amid a deficit of information, pure speculation is running wild. But the answers to some basic questions can allow the campus community to move forward together.

President Teresa Amott has noted publicly that the push for encouraging reporting of sexual violence is meant to root out the “serial” offenders to make campus a safer place for everyone. But beyond the initial reports in the Campus Safety log, campus at large is never given notice of how internal investigations are resolved. So, how often are offenders removed from campus? Are the financial pressures associated with increasing enrollment conflicting with the college’s responsibility to make campus a safer place?

Thus far, there is no indication of which specific policies and procedures being called into question by the Office for Civil Rights. Does the concern lie with major issues such as the mandatory reporting policy or with a particular administrative office or adjudicating body, such as the Grievance Panel? And most importantly, are any members of the “Title IX team” being implicated by the Office for Civil Rights?

We know now that the college has been aware of the ongoing federal investigation since January. In the months since then, we have seen a strong push for reform at Knox, with administrators giving heed to the student activism from and for organizations like Students Against Sexism in Society, Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention and the Sexual Assault Resource Reform Coalition. But how much of the college’s progress stems from an intrinsic desire to serve students better – as opposed to a reactionary concern with federal scrutiny? We deserve to know how much weight student concerns carry at face value, absent any action by federal investigators.

TKS is seeking these answers in its coverage of general sexual assault response and prevention initiatives, as well as the ongoing investigation by the Office for Civil Rights. You can send us your thoughts and suggestions through the usual channels: social media, letters to the editor or email at tks@knox.edu.

Students groups and federal investigators are sounding the alarm at Knox, but the general student body doesn’t know the full extent of the problem. If we want to address these underlying issues as a community, it behooves the college to allow its practices to see the light of day.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  Office of Civil Rights sexual assault title ix

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