Sexual misconduct policies updated in student handbook

Sexual misconduct incidents now must be investigated with or without the involvement of a victim, per new policy changes at a national and university level.
The 2012-13 edition of the Butler University student handbook contains updates due to new obligations from the U.S. Department of Education released in April.
The harassment and sexual misconduct parts of the “Rights and Responsibilities” section now have clearer definitions of what those acts involve, as well as how the university should handle them.
Sally Click, dean of student services, worked with the student affairs department over the summer to train and learn how to update these sections under the new regulations.
“We’ve got to think about this differently,” Click said.
Click said the major change came with how the university will handle violations dealing with gender and sex.
These regulations spur from the “Dear Colleague” letter released from the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education.
The department issued the letter to remind schools of their responsibilities after finding that universities all over the country are not able to address issues of sexual assault and uphold the provisions of Title IX, a law passed in 1972 to remedy gender discrimination.
The letter indicated universities need to treat sexual assault more like a civil rights violation, not a code of conduct issue, Click said.
The result is that instead of a student conduct hearing, there will first be a preliminary investigation and then, potentially, an administrative review.
“The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter made it clear that we can not go on with business as usual,” Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson said. “We can’t just rely on the Butler Way.”
Click said in the past, the investigation of sexual misconduct was “victim-centered.” Student affairs let the victim decide how far and how fast to investigate.
Now, if the office becomes aware of an issue, a minimal investigation is required with or without the victim’s involvement.
If it is determined that a code of conduct was violated, the investigation will move to an administrative review, where either Click or Irene Stevens, dean of student life, will question the accused person, any witnesses and the victim.
In the past, the accused person was allowed to question the victim. The new requirements do not allow that to happen.
Click and Stevens will act as “fact finders” and make the ultimate decision if it was “more likely than not” the offense happened.
If the facts are inconclusive, the case will be dismissed, Click said.
If it is determined that a sexual misconduct guideline has been violated, the alleged offender has the right to appeal. But if found guilty, sanctions including suspension and dismissal from the university can be imposed. Alleged offenders may also be prosecuted under local or federal law.
Along with an administrative review, allegations of sexual misconduct are reportable under the Clery Act, a law that requires universities to keep records of crime statistics.
All reported incidents of sexual assault will be investigated in coordination with the Office of Student Affairs, said Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety.
Click said she thinks if more people know an investigation might take off in a way a student is not comfortable with, the new process may work against the desire to address sexual misconduct situations.
“We’re really trying to balance what we need to do to be compliant, what we need to do to support our students and how we help everybody involved in a situation,” Click said.
Students can keep themselves and their friends safe by reading the updated handbook and knowing their rights before a situation happens, Johnson said.
“We all need to step up our game as far as knowing what those rules, policies and compliance issues are,” Johnson said. “If you see something, you need to tell someone.”

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