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Senate discusses Title IX

| Thursday, October 12, 2017

Deputy Title IX coordinator Heather Ryan presented updates about the University’s Title IX policy to the student senate on Wednesday.

The updated process expands the options students have when reporting sexual assault or harassment to the University. Both the victim, or “complainant,” and the perpetrator, or “respondent,” have more autonomy in the new process.

Ryan showed the senate the resources available on the Notre Dame Title IX website, including information on how to confidentially and non-confidentially report sexual violence, documents explaining the student reporting process and past Student Climate Surveys showing the prevalence of sexual violence at Notre Dame.

“[Title IX] is about making sure that students, faculty and staff have space on campus and can pursue academic inquiry, can pursue co-curricular activities and have a full experience at the institution,” Ryan said.

The updated process, implemented in August of this year, gives complainants the choice to pursue administrative or alternative resolutions to cases. Administrative resolutions will move more quickly than under the previous process. Ryan said she hopes that resolutions will be given within 60 days of when the investigation begins in order to handle the issue efficiently and compassionately.

“Even if someone might be dismissed from the University, we have a responsibility to care for them through this process,” Ryan said. “But we also have a commitment to the safety and security of our campus, too.”

Ryan also announced that she will be changing positions after fall break. Starting then, she will be the director of the Office of Community Standards.

Following Ryan’s presentation, student body president Rebecca Blais, student body vice president Sibonay Shewit and student government chief of staff Prathm Juneja discussed the report they will present to the Board of Trustees regarding on-campus alcohol culture.

Although the report is unfinished, Blais, Shewit and Juneja talked through the research, findings and recommendations. The research is largely based on a 400-page report by the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being (McWell) detailing student drug and alcohol use.

The report from McWell is partially based on student surveys and indicates that students at Notre Dame, on average, engage in more alcohol use than students at comparable universities. The national reference statistics are according to information from AlcoholEdu.

“At Notre Dame, only 19.8 percent of students said that they hadn’t consumed alcohol in the past 30 days,” Blais said. “That’s compared to the national reference group of 36.4 [percent]. By extrapolation, that would say that we have a non-drinking population of about 20 percent.”

Blais said that much of the alcohol consumption culture surrounds residential life on-campus.

“Notre Dame actually has higher percentages of alcohol consumption both in binge-drinking and alcoholism than any of our peers, both academically and athletically,” Blais said. “It is part of our culture … and it is something we should address.”

The students’ report will also contain information on drug use and sexual assault related to alcohol and drug use. Their recommendations to the Board include eliminating parietals and enhancing consistency of policy enforcement between residence halls, among other suggestions.

Blais, Shewit and Juneja also support the Callisto program, currently in use at 15 other institutions, which will facilitate anonymous recording and reporting of sexual violence on campus.

“Callisto is a system created by survivors, for survivors,” Blais said. “It gains a lot of autonomy.”

The Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention is testing Callisto’s viability on campus. Pending a vote to move forward with Callisto on Oct. 27, Blais hopes to gain support for the program from the Board of Trustees.

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