College changes sexual misconduct policy

By Haley Costen
Staff Writer

A major change to the College’s sexual misconduct policy will come into affect next week.

The college previously had two separate policies for staff and students, but now one policy will cover both students and staff.

“Misconduct is misconduct,” said Regina Sherwood, the College’s Title IX Coordinator.

The new policy will also be updated to be in compliance with President Obama’s recent initiatives and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which requires colleges to refine and change their policies.

VAWA requires that institutions report domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, beyond crime categories the Clery Act already mandates, and that colleges must adopt procedures, such as for notifying purported victims of their rights, according to the American Council on Education.

Colleges must also adopt institutional policies to address and prevent campus sexual violence and to train campus personnel.

Sarah Neill, the Dean of Student Life and Deputy Title IX coordinator made it clear that sexual misconduct does not just involve harassment, but domestic violence and assault. The new policy will encompass all of these issues and will be effective not just for students, but for faculty, staff and guests.

Both Neill and Sherwood emphasized the importance of understanding the policy and knowing what resources exist for students. Neill added that future programs will focus on bystander awareness.

“It’s important that people in key roles understand that there are reporting obligations,” Neill said, adding that misconduct is not only traumatic, but also disruptive to the educational process.

Gina Capra, the Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator, is expected to be a valuable resource and her position is an indicator of the College’s commitment to its policy, according to Neill.

Capra will visit the Student Government Association (SGA) and educate them on the new policy.

“I think it will be important for student leaders,” Neill said. “The goal is to eliminate barriers for support.”

“It’s really important that people are connectd to a broader network. We want to ensure that whoever needs it gets direct support and has resources,” Neill added. She also said that it is important that students understand who is responsible for what.

Sherwood’s job as the Title IX Coordinator is to create efforts to understand what faculty and staff are doing in relation to the policy and to make sure that they are trained. Neill, as the Deputy Coordinator, will work with students and make sure Residence Assistants are trained.

Sherwood said that President Obama’s initiatives and the VAWA will inspire a change in culture, not just at Simmons but across the country.

Sherwood and Neill have spent about a year working on the policy and making sure that the policy is closely aligned with the College’s values.

“If we have a shared understanding we can have a consistent response,” Neill said. “I think a lot of work on campuses is tied to who you are as an institution.”

Sherwood said that the policy will be studied annually and that she and Neill will have an active review and oversee ongoing concerns and conversations about the policy.

“We look forward to active conversations on this,” Sherwood said.

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