Students Discuss Title IX Sexual Assault Procedures with Carolyn Livingston

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 50 students gathered in Winship Ballroom on Tuesday for a discussion with campus administration on Title IX, a national policy that requires federally funded institutions to protect against sex discrimination.

Carolyn Livingston, senior associate vice president of the Division of Campus Life and Title IX coordinator for students, led the talk — “Title IX: Ask Me Anything with Dr. Carolyn Livingston” — about the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Emory’s Sexual Misconduct Policy cites Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 as a measure that “protects people from sex discrimination in educational programs and activities at institutions that receive federal financial assistance.”

Organizers, College sophomores Sammy Karon and Caroline Holmes, encouraged students to submit questions for Dr. Livingston to answer online beginning on April 1. Through an online forum publicized on Facebook, students submitted around 30 questions ranging from Emory’s protocol for investigating Title IX allegations to choosing which allegations are chosen for public safety notifications.

Karon and Holmes began the talk by posing questions randomly selected from those submitted online.

The first question chosen asked if anyone from Emory had ever been expelled for sexual assault. Livingston said students have been expelled from Emory for sexual assault in the last two and a half years. She explained that, three years ago, members of the administration realized there were different processes dealing with Title IX allegations ​for different schools on campus. The administration created a uniform process and Title IX coordinator to have a standardized adjudicated process. The adjudication process involves a board of 37 members that are trained annually to take party in sexual assault violation hearings.

When an allegation of sexual assault is reported to Emory, Livingston said that the student is asked for basic information about the report including the name of the perpetrator, if they know a name. The perpetrator is then contacted by investigators trained in handling the issue who look for areas of disagreement between both parties, if there are any, Livingston said. The administration will evaluate if the facts of the case violate any part of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. If a violation is found, Livingston will contact the student, and they can either accept the charges or take the case to a hearing panel to contest.

Many students asked about the relationship between Emory’s adjudication process for sexual assault and the criminal process. Livingston said that Emory’s process is in no way a criminal process, clarifying that Emory needs a preponderance of evidence, which means that more likely than not, this event occurred.

Criminal investigations require a “without a reasonable doubt” standard for evidence, which often requires investigation of rape kits or forensic evidence that Emory does not want to include, because they are not a criminal adjudication process, Livingston said. However, students are given the option to pursue the criminal process and given necessary resources to do so.

Follow up questions asked Livingston to explain how the administration could prove a perpetrator is guilty with a legal standard of evidence because details are often hard to pin down. Livingston disagreed in saying that those details are not that hard to pin down, because the preponderance of doubt is not a light standard.

College ​senior Tevin Leufroy said there was a lot of misunderstanding between students and the administration.

“I thought the majority of questions were well-informed; however, there were some that had false information behind them,” Leufroy said. “Most of those from wrong accusations were cleared up by [Livingston].”

One question often revisited throughout the talk was why Emory has not published statistics on the number of students found guilty of sexual assault.

“The number is not big enough,” Livingston said. “People don’t just leave Emory. People know who that student is. Our fear is that if we say 10 people have been found guilty in the last 5 years, it won’t be hard to figure out who all 10 of those students were. All of a sudden, Emory becomes a very small place.”

She said that the number of reported cases of sexual assault are available on the Emory Health and Safety website.

Students asked Livingston multiple follow-up questions. Holmes and Karon, howeveroften had to remind students to keep their follow-ups related to the original question and pose new questions in the open question session at the end. Karon said after the event that, though it went well, it was not quite what she had expected.

“It was more challenging to moderate a discussion between students and the administration than I had thought,” Karon said. “Because I’m, on one hand, a student, but on the other hand, I wanted to make sure the speaker felt respected, which ultimately worked out. But it was more difficult than I was expecting.”

Livingston said after the discussion that she was not surprised by any of the questions students asked.

“There were a lot of passionate students interested in Title IX and in learning more,” Livingston said. She said that it is normal for students to desire clarification and that she hopes that they were satisfied by the talk.

College junior Josh Niemtzow, attended the event as a part of Young Democrats, one of the co-sponsors of the talk.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was really impressed by the event,” Niemtzow said. “It was very informative, and I was really impressed with Dr. Livingston’s willingness to respond to all the questions.”

Holmes said that she and Karon hope to publicize the information Livingston presented for the rest of the student body in the future.