Skidmore College annually reviews its disciplinary policies and processes and, from time to time, conducts a more extensive review. In September 2009, Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun appointed an 11-member task force made up of faculty, students, and Student Affairs staff to conduct a comprehensive review of the College's policies and procedures as they apply to sexual assault and misconduct.The Sexual Misconduct Response Task Force, made up of students, faculty and members of the Student Affairs staff, has been working throughout the 2009-10 academic year and is due to report on its recommendations to the College in September 2010. The panel has been conducting exhaustive research, consulting experts and leading discussions with Skidmore students, faculty and staff throughout the year. It has convened its first public information session for April 22.
Our aim is to create a disciplinary process that treats all those involved with dignity, respect, honor, and fairness. This is crucial not only for the complainant and the accused, but for the Skidmore community as a whole.
The College is committed to ensuring that our policies concerning sexual assault are informed by the most current research. We have engaged to assist us in this review one of the nation's leading experts on these issues, Saunie Schuster, a partner in the Ohio-based law firm of Schuster & Clifford LLP and a former faculty member and associate dean of student affairs at Ohio State University. She is scheduled to visit the campus on May 26 to meet with the Task Force, provide training and conduct workshops.
Because college disciplinary processes are not courts of law, we have some latitude in how we design our procedures for dealing with sexual assault cases. We have many options by which to maintain the rights of all parties while creating an environment that protects the individuals involved. It is only by exploring these options that colleges ultimately can create an environment in which students who have been sexually assaulted feel confident in coming forward.
The following are five major dimensions of the issues that the Task Force is examining:
- Education. Changing the environment begins with how we as a community talk about sexual behavior and about prevention of sexual assault. This entails encouraging students to become explicit in the terms they use to express consent in their intimate relationships and how they communicate discomfort and withdrawal of consent. How can our professional staff in Health Promotion and peer advocates in our Center for Sex and Gender Relations encourage and expand this conversation?
- The "Intake" Process. Intake refers to the manner in which the College receives and processes the initial report of an incident and the support that is immediately provided to the complainant. Annual student surveys indicate that the true incidence of sexual assault and misconduct experienced by our students is considerably higher than what students report. How can we ensure that our procedures do everything reasonable to encourage the reporting of sexual assaults?
- Case Management, Referral, and Follow-up. We provide advocates to both the complainant and respondent for support through the disciplinary process. When a complainant comes forward, we must immediately clearly explain to that individual and to the accused our disciplinary process, all of the options, and the internal and external parties who assist them. How can we best achieve this?
- Campus Disciplinary Process Options. This will involve a detailed examination of the way the College conducts disciplinary hearings and the options that are offered to both complainants and respondents for presenting evidence. We are asking: What adjudicative process will meet our standard for fairness while allowing both individuals involved to tell their story and to maintain their dignity? Can we create a process that provides a thorough airing of evidence without putting the complainant and the respondent in a position of confrontation?
- Training. Everyone who plays a responding role in cases involving sexual assault must be well trained in assisting both sexual assault complainants and respondents from the moment a report is received through the end of a disciplinary hearing and beyond -- a period where the experience for many can be comparable to post-traumatic stress. What kind of training should every participant in the process receive?
The following persons on campus are trained as sexual misconduct support persons. They are available to support students who are bringing forth complaints of sexual misconduct. Any student who has experienced sexual misconduct while at Skidmore is entitled to choose a support person. Students do not need to go forward with their complaints to an administrative hearing in order to have a support person. Having a support person is encouraged, but is completely voluntary. Students may elect to change support persons at any time.
- Jen McDonald, Director, Health Promotions
- Ann Marie Przywara, Associate Director, Residential Life
- Michelle Murray, Prevention Coordinator, Health Services
- Darren Drabek, Academic Counselor, Student Academic Services
- Pamela Perez, Guest Services and Information Systems Coordinator of the Dean of Special Programs
- Marla Melito, Interim Director, First Year Experience
Task Force Members
Don Hastings, Associate Dean of Student Affairs/Director of Residential Life, Chair
- Patty Bosen, Director of Health Services
- Rachael Bowen '14, Center for Sex and Gender Relations, Co-Head Peer Advocate
- Dennis Conway, Director of Campus Safety
- David Karp, Associate Dean of Student Affairs/Director of Campus Life
- Mariel Martin, Title IX Deputy Coordinator/Director of Student Diversity Programs
- Jen McDonald, Director, Health Promotions
- Michelle Murray, Assistant Director of Health Promotions
- Lauren O'Donnell '14, Center for Sex and Gender Relations, Co-Head Peer Advocates
- Julia Routbort, Director of Counseling Center