Student government postpones sexual misconduct resolution vote

Student government has postponed voting on a sexual misconduct resolution in order to strengthen the resolution’s arguments. Photo by Gabriella Anderson

A vote for a student government resolution that aims to improve guidelines around reporting student misconduct and sexual assault was postponed March 1 and will be voted on within the next two weeks.

“Some language in the background is being changed, specifically in the section regarding Title IX changes proposed by the U.S. Department of Education,” said Alex Ballard, the upperclassman senator who was part of the resolution’s drafting. “We are citing more specifically from the proposed changes to strengthen our argument to the administration.”

The sexual misconduct resolution was drafted by Ballard and Lindsey Ellis, the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts senator.

It calls for the university administration to further address reports of sexual misconduct on campus, who are requesting more staff members dedicated to Title IX and asks for improvements to the reporting process.

“We want to see either a shift to positions that are entirely focused on sexual misconduct, or additional certified and credentialed staff to compensate,” Ballard said. “What we have now is not working. Students have told us this and we’re in the business of believing students, so we have a duty to speak up for that.”

DeAnn Yocum Gaffney, associate dean of students and lead Title IX coordinator, told The Panther that she and the Title IX office is “looking to improve outreach efforts and make sure students are more knowledgeable” about the process for reporting misconduct and its subsequent proceedings.

“We are certainly responding to lots of reports that come in,” Yocum Gaffney said.“We’ve been able to well balance that. I guess that would be a call for the university.”

Ballard and Ellis, who began drafting the resolution in November, discussed the current misconduct guidelines with some students and gathered quotes and statistics to bolster the document.

The resolution uses statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the 2017-2018 Chapman Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey to support its suggestions.

The resolution suggests hiring additional staff for the Title IX office, as some administrators who oversee Title IX proceedings also hold other positions.

“I work with students of concern, counseling and disability services,” Yocum Gaffney said. “The investigators investigate cases that are related to student sexual misconduct, but they would also hear other kinds of student conduct cases.”

The resolution also centers around sexual misconduct campus awareness and student education. The 2017-2018 Chapman University student survey has also shown that 41 percent of the almost 1,400 respondents do not have a complete understanding of the school’s sexual misconduct policies, and 82 percent of respondents who had experienced sexual misconduct said that they didn’t believe their incident was serious enough to report, coinciding with the 63 percent of sexual assault cases nationally that aren’t reported to police.

Lack of reporting is a nationwide issue, Gaffney said.

“We review the sexual misconduct policy with all students and are always looking to improve outreach efforts and make sure students are more knowledgeable,” she said.

The resolution also aims is to help students feel less hesitant about reporting any sexual misconduct – especially those who have on-campus jobs, like resident advisor positions, or leadership roles.

David Sundby, the director of residence life who oversees student employment, including resident advisor positions, did not respond to requests for comment.

“We want to reduce the barriers of hesitations beyond those that already exist, to encourage students to come forward and participate and not fear that they’re going to face repercussions in other aspects of their lives,” Ballard said.
Since completing the first draft of the resolution, student government has gathered more than 1,300 student signatures.

“We want to make sure that the process is for students and not just trying to protect the university from any liability,” Ballard said.