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Presidential task force on sexual assault releases report

| Friday, April 29, 2016

Last spring, Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney created a task force on sexual assault, which spent the 2015-2016 school year examining current practices regarding sexual assault. The task force — which was separated into three subcommittees and included six faculty members, six students, three administrators, the Vice President for Student Affairs, the College’s counsel and Mooney — released a report on their findings Friday. The report was emailed to the Saint Mary’s community and included a letter from Mooney, who is retiring after this academic year.

The three committees focused on education and training, support and college processes, Mooney said in the letter. They examined the College’s efforts to prevent sexual assault, handle accusations of sexual violence and support survivors of sexual assault.

The task force found that having the College’s legal counsel hold the position of Title IX Coordinator is a conflict of interest. The report recommended that the Coordinator should be the Director of Human Resources — the position at other small colleges that also holds the Title IX Coordinator position. According to the report, this change in structure should occur no later than the next academic year. It also suggested there be three Deputy Coordinators who specialize in complaints by students against students, complaints by students against faculty members and complaints by students against a staff member or administrator.

To continue the work done by the task force, the report recommends establishing a Standing Committee on Sexual Violence.

This committee is to meet regularly and make further recommendations to the President “for programming, education and training related to sexual violence, for improving support systems for survivors and for refining procedures for reporting, investigating and hearing Title IX cases.”

The committee will also coordinate specific training for faculty and staff dealing with LGBTQ harassment and discrimination prevention, as well as institute policies and procedures to coordinate with local law enforcement and rape crisis services and victim advocacy programs.

According to the report, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should be implemented between the College, the University and Holy Cross College. The report defines a MOU as “a formal agreement between two or more parties that is not intended to be legally binding but carries a degree of seriousness and mutual respect.”

The report recommends the creation of a MOU to address “issues of adjudication when sexual violence involves students from two or more of the campuses and that clearly identifies procedures and potential sanctions.”

The report suggests improved training for all individuals on campus, including Campus Ministry staff, Health and Counseling staff, all people involved in Residence Life, security dispatchers and officers, Critical Incident Board Members, Title IX Coordinator and deputy coordinators and all overnight employees. The report calls for an annual review of the training process. It also recommends that there be transparency will all parties involved in Title IX cases, and that all parties be held accountable.

The report recommended “that Saint Mary’s College publish a clear statement that the College community does not tolerate sexual violence and recognizes the importance of fostering a survivor’s agency following any incident of sexual violence.”

The task force also recommended information regarding resources and support available to all survivors be made easily and readily accessible. According to the report, this can be done through use of media and fliers around campus. It recommended there be a “one stop shop” in the College’s internal portal for students to have all information regarding policies, resources and support in one place.

According to the report, resource advocates should be appointed by the College to help guide survivors through the available information and process.

The report also recommends establishing ongoing support to “truly support the ‘whole person.’” To do so, it recommended the establishment of a healing ritual through Campus Ministry, the creation of support groups facilitated by the Counseling Center or Campus Ministry, a 24-hour on-campus support protocol and trained faculty and staff to support underrepresented groups on campus — including the establishment of “information hubs” for these underrepresented groups.

According to the report, there should be periodic efforts to survey the climate on campus. It recommends a survey, such as the Sexual Violence Climate Survey — which was administered during the spring semester — should be interpreted by the Standing Committee on Sexual Violence, the Office of Institutional Research and students who have gone through the Title IX process.

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole