Over the past two weeks, administrators have been meeting with student groups to discuss upcoming changes to University sexual assault policy, including the establishment of a new office to investigate reported sexual assaults.
Groups aimed at preventing sexual violence, such as One In Four and Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention, as well as other groups, including the Interfraternity Council, the University Honor Council and UMOJA, were invited to meet to learn about the new policy and share their feedback.
In addition to the new investigative office, Penn will hire a full-time coordinator for Title IX — the federal law mandating that colleges address sexual assault — and restructure disciplinary hearing panels for sexual assault so only professors are involved. Previously, the Office of Student Conduct has handled cases of reported sexual assault. Administrators hope to implement the changes by next semester.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but there are some lingering questions, such as how they will have a fully fledged training program by next semester for faculty and staff members,” said College junior Braden Amundsen, a member of One In Four who was at a meeting with administrators.
The committee in charge of the new policy will provide training for the faculty members that comprise the hearing panels for students accused of sexual assault. Currently, hearing panels include both faculty and students.
“I think they felt unsure whether peers make people more or less comfortable,” Amundsen said, adding that he was not speaking on behalf of all One In Four members. “While new federal mandates don’t say ‘no students,’ they do suggest that students aren’t completely trained.”
He added that he hopes training will be extensive, so faculty are adequately prepared for cases.
Several other student leaders who have met with administrators declined to comment on the new policy.
“We have worked hard during this process to be as inclusive as possible and have met formally and informally with student leaders, providing the opportunity to raise questions and concerns about the proposed new procedure,” Wendy White, the University’s general counsel, said in an email.
The new policy will follow those of other Ivy League schools by separating sexual violence cases from other disciplinary matters and creating a special office to handle them.
The new office is federally mandated to handle all reports of sexual assault, even if the victim pursues legal action in a criminal court. In the past, the Office of Student Conduct has paused its internal investigation if police were also conducting a criminal investigation.Comments powered by Disqus
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