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Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Committee Report and Next Steps

From: Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., President
To: Holy Cross Campus Community
August 7, 2019


 

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

During the spring semester, I asked a committee of faculty, staff and students to review our Sexual Misconduct Policy in light of the concerns and questions raised by members of our campus community as well as requirements of relevant laws and regulations. The committee, working with attorney Daryl Lapp of Locke Lord LLP, completed their review and earlier this summer submitted their recommended changes to the policy, recommendations for implementation of the policy and issues for the College’s further consideration. You can read their full report on the Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Committee webpage.

The campus community raised a variety of questions and concerns about the policy and its implementation. Many of these are contained in the Title IX Q&A on the campus climate website. In my charge to the members of the committee, I also posed questions for their consideration. I asked the committee to determine which questions and concerns to prioritize and address. Below I will lay out a summary of many of the committee’s recommendations and next steps on these.

One question that was raised by the committee was who has ultimate responsibility for the policy. The Title IX office will continue to report to the College’s Vice President for Administration and Finance, Dottie Hauver, and she will have responsibility for overseeing the policy and its implementation. We will make this clear in the policy.

Policy Considerations

I have reviewed the committee’s report and I agree with the committee that the policy should be revised to address the concerns raised, including:

  • Revising the introductory sections of the policy;
  • Including language regarding how conflicts of interest with respect to the Sanctioning Official will be addressed;
  • Fleshing out the language regarding the determination and implementation of sanctions;
  • Clarifying how the Title IX coordinator considers, evaluates and determines interim measures; and
  • Clarifying the process the Provost may use in faculty matters with respect to consultation in decision-making and specifying that delegation of the Provost’s role should whenever possible be made to a person who currently holds a leadership position in Academic Affairs.

I am asking Vice President Hauver to finalize the language to be adopted in a revised policy to address these issues by early September.

The committee notes in its report that it did consider some other changes to the policy, such as mandatory sanctions for certain categories of sexual misconduct and the right of a responsible party to appeal sanctions imposed, but that it decided not to recommend these changes at this time. The committee provided thoughtful rationales for these decisions; however, I believe that the question of including mandatory sanctions in the policy should be further reviewed and evaluated.

Implementation Considerations

In addition to changes to the policy, we will be making the following enhancements to our implementation of the policy: 

  • The College has hired Jody Shipper of Grand River Solutions, a nationally recognized expert in Title IX, to develop recommendations for the organizational structure and resources dedicated to education, prevention and investigation/adjudication of reports of misconduct. With the assistance of the search firm Isaacson Miller and an internal search committee which Vice President Dottie Hauver is coordinating, the search for a new Title IX Coordinator is being undertaken. There will be subsequent searches to fill the remaining recommended positions in the Title IX office.
  • By the start of the school year, 
    •  There will be a visual representation of the Title IX process available in order to more clearly communicate how our policy is implemented.
    •  The Title IX Q&A will be updated to include information about the specific areas recommended in the committee’s report.
  • I am asking Vice President Hauver and the Title IX office to review the committee’s recommendations regarding the time to complete investigations and incorporate these recommendations into its practices, while maintaining fair, thorough and effective investigations.
  • In the early fall, Ms. Shipper will be holding sessions during which she will walk participants through the process of typical cases using examples. I strongly encourage all community members to attend these sessions to understand how the process plays out in different scenarios.

Issues for Further Consideration

With regards to the additional items that the committee asked us to consider:

  • I welcome the recommendation that the College establish a student Title IX Advisory Board, and Vice President Hauver will work with the new Title IX Coordinator to establish such a board promptly after the Coordinator joins the college.
    • One of the first issues I will ask this board to discuss is the possibility of including students on determination panels in the future. As the report cited, there are many challenges, including prior legal guidance, associated with including students in the adjudication process, but I am open to reevaluating our approach.
  • Every year, Vice President Hauver and the Title IX Coordinator will establish a Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Committee to undertake an annual review of the policy.
    • In addition to undertaking the further consideration of mandatory sanctions and regularly evaluating the policy going forward, we recognize that the U.S. Department of Education is currently considering revisions to their regulations which are likely to be published in the fall of 2019. The Department will set an implementation date and we will need to revisit our policy in light of those new regulations in order to meet that implementation date. As we do not know what the substance of these regulations will be, we do not know how much revision might be necessary as a result of any new regulations. In addition, we are continually monitoring federal and state laws, regulations, guidance and court interpretations and all of these impact the need for policy revisions.
  • The committee raised the question of whether additional victims might come forward to seek information about options and resources if they could bring their questions about the policy to an individual outside the Title IX office. This is an important question and we need to better understand the needs of the community and what resources would be most valuable. Ms. Shipper will include this in her evaluation and will offer recommendations on possible options.

The committee accomplished a lot in a short amount of time this spring and I want to thank all of the committee members for their thoughtful and detailed work in the few months they had to accomplish it. The committee members included:

Sarah Behrens, Class of 2019

Jane Corr, Special Assistant to the President

Francisco Gago-Jover, Professor, Spanish and Class Dean

Dorothy Hauver, Vice President for Administration and Finance

Paul Irish, Associate Dean of Students

Christian Realbuto, Class of 2020

Stephanie Reents, Associate Professor, English

Gareth Roberts, Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science

Mary Roche, Associate Professor, Religious Studies

Cheryl Rogers, Assistant Director, Deputy Title IX Coordinator

Bridget Whepley, Class of 2021

It is vital that our policies at Holy Cross not only adhere to legal guidelines, but reflect the values and identity of our community. This work is an important step in moving us forward.

Sincerely,

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
President