Office for Civil Rights Community Update
Dear Kenyon Community,
Welcome back to the Hill after what I hope was a restful and rejuvenating break. This is the first in a series of regular community updates about Title IX work at Kenyon, including specific advancements on the recommendations arising from the recent comprehensive audit of Kenyon’s Title IX/Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) policy, procedures and outcomes.
As many of you already know, the Title IX audit was conducted by Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger, a legal professional with experience in Title IX/VAWA matters. Her findings were made available in early December 2016, and the full report can be found online via Kenyon's Title IX website or downloaded as a PDF. Ms. Veidlinger’s major recommendations generally fall into three broad categories:
- policy changes to clarify certain procedural elements and to better address the concerns of our LGBTQ+ community;
- improved process and investigation practices with specific suggestions for initial assessments, timely investigations, and improved documentation and record keeping; and
- enhanced education and training efforts with specific proposals to improve the training of individuals serving as campus resources, to expand the general education provided to the campus community, and to better educate parties involved in Title IX situations about their rights and resources available to them.
The audit report will serve as a roadmap for Kenyon's Title IX efforts, guiding the identification of short- and long-term goals, many of which are already underway. Below you will find updates on some of the work that has been underway this year as well as plans for making additional progress toward these goals.
Fall 2016 Semester
Updated Policy. This summer, the College revised our policy to reflect feedback received during the 2016 spring semester, much of which aligned with recommendations in the audit. We expanded the time frame to complete the investigation phase from 30 calendar days to 45 calendar days; established a protocol when considering interim suspension; and enabled the Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with the investigators, to amend the charges being investigated as an investigation unfolds. The updated policy went into effect July 1 for the 2016-17 academic year. A review will continue this summer paying particular attention to language of the policy to ensure accurate and clear reflection of all populations, particularly those persons within the LGBTQ+ community.
Case Management. Recommendations in the audit included establishing an internal record-keeping and file management protocol for all print and electronic materials and constructing a uniform investigative file system for investigators. A protocol and checklist for all print, electronic, and investigative files has been created and shared with office staff and investigators.
Community Education. This past fall, we introduced an online education course that all members of the College community — students, faculty, and staff — were required to complete. The Civil Rights Office has received some initial feedback, and all participants are encouraged to complete a brief online evaluation to guide the College's decisions about online Title IX education.
Enhancements to the Title IX webpage. Enhancing the information available on the Title IX web page and related search functions were clear recommendations made by Ms. Veidlinger. The College has already updated the website search engine to include more commonly used words like "rape" to direct users to Kenyon's Title IX page. We will continue to expand the Title IX Frequently Asked Questions section to address questions and identify themes and concerns expressed by the community.
Title IX Team and Advisory Committee Formed. Ms. Veidlinger recommended creating a team to support the work of the civil rights/Title IX coordinator and provide enhanced stability for the office. Two such teams have been developed — the Title IX Team and the Title IX Advisory Committee.
- Title IX Team: This collaborative team will support the Title IX coordinator and establish cross-departmental processes and procedures consistent with the requirements of Title IX and the Violence Against Women reAuthorization (VAWA) Act. The team will also ensure consistent application of Kenyon's Title IX/VAWA policy and process.
- Title IX Advisory Committee: This interdisciplinary committee, with representation from all College divisions, is charged with identifying the needs, trends, climate and culture of the campus around gender-based discrimination issues; reviewing and providing feedback on Title IX policies, initiatives, programming and materials; providing quality assurance for sex discrimination report/response systems; connecting Title IX efforts to all parts of campus and extended communities; and promoting gender equity throughout the College.
Intimate Partner Violence Education. On Jan. 9 and 10, over 20 new and returning internal investigators and invited guests from the Knox County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) participated in a training conducted by Kenyon's legal counsel. As recommended in the audit, the training included intimate partner violence education provided by a local professional crisis advocate. Attendees were also provided with a 2013 study, "Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth."
Information sharing. The audit report suggests sharing aggregate data about cases and sanctions will help encourage greater confidence the investigation process. Given the small size of the Kenyon campus, it is difficult to share this type information in a manner that will not lead to the identity of the victim. At the end of the 2017 spring semester, the College will have accumulated two complete years of investigation data, which allows the sharing of some aggregate data, although specifics on how we will begin to disseminate this information have not yet been decided. We will continue to consider how to best move forward on this point.
Staff. Linda Smolak began serving as the interim Title IX coordinator in fall 2014 and has continued to serve the College as a part-time deputy Title IX coordinator since summer 2015. A search for a full-time civil rights/Title IX deputy coordinator will be launched at the start of February. The deputy coordinator will assist the coordinator in monitoring and coordinating compliance with nondiscrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, physical and/or mental disability, age, religion, medical condition, veteran status, marital status, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by institutional policy or state, local or federal law. The successful candidate will have a demonstrated commitment to diversity and multicultural competency in working with diverse populations, including people of color, international persons and those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Title IX Common Hour. The Office for Civil Rights will host a Title IX update in the Community Foundation Theater on Tuesday, Jan. 31, during common hour. Select members of the audit committee and the Title IX coordinator will briefly outline the work and results of the audit. The campus community is invited to ask questions and encouraged to pose suggestions.
Campus Climate Surveys. On Oct. 25, all faculty and employees were invited, for the first time in Kenyon’s history, to complete an anonymous survey to better understand faculty and staff perceptions of Kenyon's climate on unwanted sexual contact and sexual assault; how Kenyon addresses and responds to sexual assault; and whether and how often faculty and staff have experienced unwanted sexual contact, relationship violence or sexual assault while working. The College partnered with Harvey Mudd College to conduct the survey to ensure anonymity. The survey results will be available before the end of the semester and will be used to inform and improve support, policies and practices at Kenyon.
This past week, students were invited to complete the HEDS Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey, which asks about life and relationships at Kenyon as well as experiences with unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault. This survey is conducted in partnership with a national education research group to ensure anonymity. Survey results, expected in the late summer or early fall, will help the College improve understanding of campus culture.
Again, welcome back. It is my hope that you will work with me and others at the College to continue to move the Title IX effort forward in a positive and meaningful way. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions.
Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator