Penn administrators proposed to move sexual misconduct cases from the Office of Student Conduct to a separate investigatory office. The proposal recommends hiring a Sexual Violence Investigative Officer to oversee all cases involving sexual assault, sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking.
The new office would focus exclusively on student-on-student sexual misconduct cases, which are currently directed to the Office of Student Conduct. The person hired to head the investigatory office would be expected to have experience in issues concerning Title IX — a federal mandate that prohibits federally funded organizations from discriminating based on gender.
This new proposal stems from a recent focus on Penn’s protocol for sexual misconduct cases. The discussion has been led by Vice Provost for Education Andy Binns, Vice President for Institutional Affairs Joann Mitchell and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Wendy White.
Binns and White could not be reached for comment before publication time.
Penn’s policy revisions have been influenced by the federal government’s efforts to bring sexual violence to the forefront of national discourse. Last year, a White House task force on sexual assault was created to produce a report and launch a website with resources for both schools and students. The Department of Education also released a list of 50 colleges under investigation for improper handling of sexual violence complaints. Penn was not listed.
The government’s pressure on college procedures led Penn to update its sexual violence policy this past May for the first time since 2012. In addition to extending its policy to include physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence, the University added specific definitions for relationship violence, domestic violence and stalking. The only definitions included in the previous policy were rape, non-forcible sex acts and consent.
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