UNA officials identify sanctions for sexual assault cases

Title IX has become a major talking point when it comes to university policies, especially those that involve handling sexual misconduct.

Students may have noticed syllabi for some of their classes include the UNA Title IX policy that stipulates all faculty and staff are now required to report all incidences of Title IX violations.

Several schools across the country, including the Harvard University School of Law, have been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for improperly handling Title IX cases.

These investigations have prompted discussion about the way UNA handles sexual assault cases.

“If it’s a severe situation of sexual assault or domestic violence and the student is found responsible, they’re not going to be a student here anymore,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Tammy Jacques. “It can be for a certain amount of time; it can be expulsion, or it could be permanently. The factors of the case would play a role.”

Junior Rachel Cole said she thinks the sanctions handed down for sexual assault cases should include counseling and other treatment that would prevent future issues.

“Just kicking somebody out of school isn’t going to solve the problem,” Cole said. “Obviously something’s wrong if a person is doing something like that. Getting them help is important.”

Director of Student Conduct Kim Greenway said counseling can be a stipulation for a student who seeks readmission after a suspension.

“If someone is suspended, we can require they go through counseling before coming back, and even then, they have to go through evaluation before they can even reapply for admission,” Greenway said. “We have to bee 100 percent sure they aren’t going to do something again.”

Jacques said other cases, which involve “lower level” violations could result in probation or a warning; however, the difficulty is defining a high- or low-level case.

“A lower level case could be a case where some people are at an apartment, someone thinks things are going a certain way, and they touch someone else inappropriately, thinking they have the go-ahead,” Jacques said.” But the other person hasn’t given permission, and they feel uncomfortable.”

She said if the situation stopped at that point, an investigation could continue, or the victim could request only mediation.

“The complainant’s wishes come into play when we’re looking at these types of cases,” she said. “If a student has been sexually violent, or sexually assaulted or raped somebody, we’re not going to a probation or a warning. They don’t need to be at our institution.”

Greenway said the safety of the campus community also comes into play when determining what sanctions will be handed down.

She said if the person is deemed a threat to other students, faculty and staff, suspension or expulsion are the sanctions handed down.

She said some “lower level” cases, which can include miscommunication about boundaries between intimate partners, can result in mandatory counseling for the respondent.

“Sometimes the complainant chooses to go to counseling with the person if they were in a relationship or something of that nature,” Greenway said. “We’ve seen really good results. Most of the time both partners say it helped them understand the way the other thought.”

University Bookstore Employee Chelsea Phillips said she feels counseling is a “step in the right direction” for preventing Title IX violations in the future.

Phillips and Cole said they think students with pasts that include sexual misconduct should be identified by the university before they come to UNA.

Any time a report comes in that could possibly be a Title IX case, it automatically goes to the Title IX Coordinator, Greenway said.

Jacques said a trained pool of staff and faculty are chosen to conduct investigations.

Investigators are thoroughly trained based on national standards, Greenway said.

Investigators determine whether a violation of Title IX occurred and determine the sanctions based on details of the case, Jacques said.

Other student conduct cases are presented to a board of students, faculty and staff, but Greenway said the privacy granted to parties involved in Title IX cases not only ensures confidentiality, it also makes investigations more accurate.

“When we moved to this model, this was a real concern of mine,” Greenway said. “I’m used to boards making these decisions. But I have found it is a lot less traumatic on all individuals involved. And, we get more information because the complainant, witnesses and respondent are more comfortable answering questions.”

Senior Brett Barnes said he thinks the system makes cases more comfortable for complainants.

“It’s rare enough for sexual assault victims to report to authorities,” Barnes said. “And having a hearing among fellow students could be a deterrent.”

Greenway said both parties have the opportunity to appeal the outcome of the case if they feel due process was violated, all evidence in the case was not heard or the sanctions are not consistent with past decisions.

If an appeal is made, a conduct board will make the final call, but will rule only on the grounds of the appeal, she said.

Phillips and Cole said they think the most important aspect of improving the student conduct and Title IX systems at UNA is transparency.

Cole said because students never learn anything about the systems until something “finally comes out in the newspaper,” people probably assume others are not getting punished.

Phillips said she thinks the results of conduct cases should be released so students know the university is addressing sexual assault.

“These things need to be more public,” she said, “How else can people know they will be punished if they do something like this?”

Greenway said cases are confidential to protect the privacy of all parties involved.

“We never release the outcome of student conduct cases except to the parties involved,” she said.