Contributing Writer

In an ongoing effort to fully comply with requirements set forth by Title IX, F&M’s Sexual Misconduct Committee and the College’s Title IX Coordinator will train every member of the staff and faculty to act as mandatory reporters if a student comes to them with information about an incident of sexual assault.

David Proulx, the College’s Title IX coordinator, and Jan Masland, the chair of the Sexual Misconduct Committee, are leading the effort to create a training program aimed at educating faculty and staff about the College’s new procedures. The training will be given to every faculty and staff member in late October or early November.

After completing the training, every staff and faculty member will be designated as a mandatory reporter of cases of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination. Consequently, if a student comes to them with information about an incident of sexual assault, or they find out about an incident, they will be required to report it to Masland in her role as chair of the Sexual Misconduct Committee, which is responsible for investigating incidents of assault, harassment, or discrimination committed by students.

Title IX, which was enacted in 1972, is often associated with gender equality in athletics, but also prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. Title IX considers sexual violence a form of prohibited sex discrimination.

In April 2011, the Office for Civil Rights released a letter through the U.S. Department of Education detailing the standards for Title IX compliance by educational institutions. Under the letter’s requirements, almost every employee at F&M falls into the category of a mandatory reporter, a fact which spurred the implementation of the new training.

“Many institutions were not clear on all aspects of the law or the intent of the law, and were doing their best to comply with the law as they understood it,” Proulx said. “And after the letter came out it got everybody quite nervous, like, ‘geez, we didn’t realize that all of these things had to be done.’”

The training will be a 15 to 20-minute program during which faculty and staff will talk with lawyers who can answer questions about the federal regulations and F&M’s policies. The training program will probably be completed by early November. Proulx hopes by Spring every student and member of the campus community will know of and understand the changes in the College’s process for handling reports of sexual assault.

“I also feel the training sends a good message to students, employees, and parents that all employees of Franklin & Marshall are invested in the safety and welfare of our community members,” Proulx said.

When a victim reports a case of sexual assault, he or she has the option of pursuing criminal charges against the perpetrator through the police or administrative action through the school. It is the victim’s decision whether he or she wants the case to be investigated by the Sexual Misconduct Committee.

Currently, staff members with authority over groups of students, such as house dons, are designated mandatory reporters of sexual assault. However, they have not been trained specifically for that role.

“We want to make sure we have our staff fully trained and students are aware of what their rights are when something happens,” Proulx said. “[After the training] we will feel confident that we’ll have a system to appropriately process incidents. Historically, there may have been times when things have been handled inconsistently, but now there’s a consistent process because of the clarification to the Title IX law and the letter.”

A website is also scheduled to launch later this fall or early next spring to help students understand F&M’s policies regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault. The website will provide information about the College’s resources for helping sexual assault victims, including information about Public Safety, Counseling Services, and the Sexual Misconduct Committee.

The website will also contain information about federal regulations the College must follow. These include Title VII, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorizes the Attorney General to file lawsuits to protect constitutional rights in public education and prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, and the Clery Act, which requires the reporting of many criminal acts, as well as Title IX.

Proulx has concerns because staff members will no longer be able to keep the information about an assault confidential between them and a student because they will have to report the incident to the Sexual Misconduct Committee, it is possible that students will be deterred from reporting assaults. Although the committee will not relsease the name of the victim if the student chooses not to investigate the incident, staff members are still required to report the name of the student to the commitee. However, Proulx is hopeful that training everyone as a mandatory reporter will increase students’ confidence in F&M’s responses and make them more likely to report incidents.

“By education and letting people know we have a strong process in place and everybody is ready and able to help in those situations, I hope people who have had that experience can bring it forward,” Proulx said.

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