5C Deans Address Sexual Assault Policy Reforms

A panel charged with rewriting sexual assault policies for the 5Cs said it would emphasize consent in new definitions, and acknowledged that some colleges may have to yield in order to coordinate how investigations are handled. Harvey Mudd, for example, could have to give up part of its honor code to comply with how the other campuses agree on handling assault investigations.

Deans from each of the 5Cs participated in the panel, which was held Friday, March 2 at the Motley Coffeehouse at Scripps College and was open to students and the 5C community.

The 5Cs have been working on revising their sexual assault policies after the U.S. Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter in April 2012 stating that sexual harassment on college campuses, including sexual violence, is a violation of Title IX.

The panel featured Deans of Students Bekki Lee of Scripps, Maggie Browning of Harvey Mudd College, Mary Spellman of Claremont McKenna College, Moya Carter of Pitzer College, and Daren Mooko of Pomona College. Professor Kimberly Drake of Scripps served as moderator.

Although CMC’s and HMC’s revised sexual assault policies have already been finalized and made available to the public, the other schools’ new policies have not been finalized. The aim of the panel was to provide students with information about what changes are being made to the policies, what processes the deans went through when revising them, and what the changes could mean for the schools.

“Our goal for this event was to create an opportunity for transparent conversation between the administration and students regarding their shifting policies,” said Olivia Buntaine SC ’15, one of the organizers of the event. “We’ve been very impressed so far with the work done on campus to prevent sexual violence and hope that this discussion will further work toward creating a safe and conscious community.”

Buntaine and Monica Dreitcer SC ’13, the Motley’s Community Engagement Manager, wrote the questions for the event, which the deans were able to access beforehand.

The deans first discussed which aspects of the schools’ policies needed to be revised. Their conversation mainly focused on what the schools were changing collectively.

Spellman said, “If there is a case involving students from two or more institutions, the case will be handled by the home institution of the respondent, but there will be an investigation done by the home institution of the complainant using the process of the home institution of the respondent.”

Spellman emphasized that the schools are working to make sure the processes are interconnected and that if a complainant goes to a different school from the respondent, the complainant will not be left to navigate the other school’s process without any help.

The deans also discussed the changes that will be made to the schools’ definitions of sexual harassment.

“We as a collective agreed that we will have a shared set of definitions,” Spellman said. “We are working collectively on these issues.”

“We’re focusing on using language that is understandable, using language that describes things in as clear terms as possible,” Lee said. “One of our goals is to write the policies in ways that are accessible, are understandable.”

When asked what the definitions will include, Lee said that they were still deciding on a common definition. However, the deans said that the issue of consent will be emphasized in the definitions, including that consent can be withdrawn at any time.

The deans also discussed the challenges of trying to standardize their policies as much as possible while remaining cognizant of the respective schools’ differing cultures.

“There are areas where the policies will not mirror each other,” Browning said. “But that’s okay, as long as there is an understanding among the students and staff of the different schools.”

Later in the panel, Browning added, “The individual campus cultures are very different. In order to join the other colleges in having the same policy, Harvey Mudd would have to reject its honor code.”

After the deans answered the prepared questions, the discussion was opened up to questions from the audience.

Emily Hampshire SC ’15, a member of Scripps’s Sexual Assault Awareness Committee, said that she was satisfied with the event and the answers given by the deans.

“Some people felt like their answers were too ‘PR,’” Hampshire said. “But I felt like for the most part, they were genuine answers.”

After the event, Buntaine said that she wished for more satisfying answers from some of the deans, but she was happy with the way the event allowed students to have a conversation about the new policies.

“Right now, it’s crucial for students to keep talking and keep the momentum going on this,” Buntaine said.

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