On Oct. 7, President Teresa Amott approached the elected representatives on the Student Senate to receive feedback for a potential change to the Grievance Panel. In the interest of student privacy, the change would remove the student representative from the panel, which hears cases of sexual assault and misconduct.
The change comes from a recommendation in an April report from the Office of Civil Rights, the same government body that investigated a Title IX report in the spring. In the report the OCR stated that while they do not prohibit students from sitting on these types of panels, the practice is discouraged.
Notwithstanding the recommendation of the OCR, Knox will have to make the decision based on its own understanding of campus culture and the best way to maintain the privacy of victims on this campus.
Knox is a small college. We are caring and want to know when one of our own has been hurt. This can threaten the confidentiality of those involved in these proceedings.
When dealing with faculty and staff, it would be unthinkable to ask for confidential details of an ongoing case. The professional nature of the relationship between a professor and a student limits the possibility of a leak of information occurring. More to the point, the settings in which students and professors typically interact do not lend themselves to the breaching of this formal relationship.
Students on the Grievance Panel have taken their jobs seriously. This editorial should not be seen as an indictment of their efforts. However, students wear many hats. We vent to our friends after a rough day. We go out to socialize and want to share the events in our lives with those closest to us.
Because of the various roles a student can fill, asking them to constantly check themselves, distinguishing what they can say as a friend and what they can say as a member of the Grievance Panel, might be playing a dangerous game.
Amott raised another issue: A plaintiff or a defendant might see his or her panel member in class, in the residence hall or out around campus. Once more breaching identities, the involved parties are no longer interacting with a peer but with an authority “who knows the most intimate details of that person’s life,” Amott said to Student Senate.
Some have expressed a concern that cutting out the student seat will lead to a lack of student input on the panel. This editorial board believes that there are ample ways for students to contribute to the development of the policy of the college in regard to sexual assault prevention without taking part in the action of adjudicating an assault that already occurred. While in most situations we fight for student participation and student involvement on campus, we must acknowledge that a survivor’s sovereignty and mental health take absolute priority.
We encourage the administration’s efforts to reshape the Grievance Panel and sincerely hope that they use this issue as a starting point for a more progressive sexual misconduct policy. Simply catching up to what the federal government expects of its institutions should not be enough for the campus. The OCR report offers a spotlight on Title IX policy and the administration should not miss the chance to capitalize on the momentum for change currently found throughout the greater Knox community.