By Annie McGrew
Asst. News Editor
Before school let out for Thanksgiving break on Tuesday, Nov. 25, Senior Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator for Students Dr. Carolyn Livingston sent a University-wide email informing students of revisions to Emory’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.
According to Livingston’s email, the new policy includes changes to the existing sanctions and outlined consequences for sexual misconduct, as well as the implementation of protective measures following a final determination of a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
The new policy also initiates an appeal process for interim restrictions, clarifies the role of the advisor in the adjudication process and adds dating and domestic violence to the definition section.
“The changes increase clarity regarding the Sexual Misconduct Policy,” Livingston wrote in an email to the Wheel.
According to the new policy, the possible sanctions include expulsion, suspension, temporary or permanent separation of parties involved, successful completion of sexual or relationship sensitivity training, counseling or mentoring and financial restitution to any individuals who were injured or impacted by the respondents behavior.
During the investigation, the Title IX Coordinator may issue interim restrictions.
The new policy outlined the process of appealing these restrictions.
According to the policy, appeals for interim restrictions must be submitted in writing to the University Title IX Coordinator within seven days from the day the parties were notified about the restriction.
The University Title IX Coordinator then reviews the materials within five days of receipt of the appeal and may affirm, modify or dismiss the original restriction.
The determination of this appeal process is final.
According to the policy, the role of the advisor in the process is to serve as a support to a complainant or respondent, and not as a representative or advocate in interactions with university officials.
The complainant and respondent may each be assisted by an advisor of choice during any investigative meeting or pre-hearing conference that a university official schedules with a complainant or respondent.
Livingston also wrote that the Sexual Misconduct Policy was revised to include feedback from the Title IX Student Envisioning Board, which was launched this past summer in an effort to bring student leaders together to discuss policy, procedures, programs and prevention efforts, according to a May 29 University press release.
Livingston added that the Title IX Student Envisioning Board includes representatives from the Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), Student Government Association (SGA), Residence Hall Association (RHA), Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA), Black Student Association (BSA), Interfraternity Council (IFC), Emory Pride, Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) and Respect Program.
These representatives were asked to take the suggested revisions back to their respective organizations and gather feedback.
According to Livingston, during their meetings, the board specifically requested that normative sanctions be included in the policy along with language clarification as it relates to sexual exploitation and the role of the advisor, as well as other requests.
Assistant Director of the Respect Program Drew Rizzo wrote that the recent changes to the policy will increase transparency about what happens after a sexual misconduct violation occurs.
He added that few other institutions give students the opportunity to shape University policy in the way that the Title IX Envisioning Board does.
“Transparent policy is an important part of changing culture, and updating policy in a way that students find accessible and have a voice in the process is paramount to that culture change,” he wrote in an email to the Wheel. “This is a huge step forward, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
According to Rizzo, students were very passionate about the inclusion of normative sanctions, which outline possible consequences of sexual misconduct, in the policy.
He also found the inclusion of these sanctions important.
“Including that information sends a clear message to the entire community that acts of sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated and can result in serious consequences, even expulsion and suspension,” Rizzo wrote.
Vice President of Advocate Training in SAPA and College junior Becca Woofter found the most important addition to the policy to be the listing of these potential sanctions.
“While these aren’t minimum sanctions, meaning that if a student is found responsible with X violation they will receive at least Y punishment, they do give an idea of what options are on the table,” Woofter wrote in an email to the Wheel. “This is one place where many students believe the policy changes should have gone further.”
Woofter also mentioned another important addition to the policy is under section 8.2.2 Investigation and Adjudication which outlines the “medical amnesty” clause.
According to Woofter, this clause states that students who report sexual misconduct and who may have been drinking will receive amnesty.
Woofter wrote that the inclusion of this clause will help diminish some of the barriers that exist for survivors to come forward, such as the potential of getting into trouble if they were drinking at the time of the assault.
However, Woofter notes that ultimately students’ actions will decide the fate of the policy.
“The easiest way to preclude these revisions from affecting the University is by not talking about them, and not being aware [of them],” Woofter wrote. “The fact that these conversations are happening is progress in itself, and on an issue where education is so vital, sparking conversations is a great first step.”
College senior and Co-President of Feminists In Action Cara Ortiz wrote in an email to the Wheel that she is very pleased that the University has taken steps to make the Sexual Misconduct Policy more comprehensive.
Of the normative sanctions which were added to the policy, she wrote that she has advocated for the inclusion of those sanctions for almost a year now and after receiving a great deal of pushback from the Title IX Coordinator, Ortiz said she is “glad to see that the policy finally has some integrity.”
Ortiz hopes that this new aspect of the policy will increase faith among students that the University will in fact hold perpetrators found in violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy accountable for their actions and behaviors.
– By Annie McGrew, Asst. News Editor