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Haverford Updates Sexual Misconduct Policy

Over the summer, Haverford updated its sexual misconduct policy to account for changes to Title IX regarding confidentiality and mandatory reporting; as a result of these new changes, Haverford added a Level Two confidentiality. Level Two members, namely the Women’s Center and Health Services, are distinct in their obligation to report to the Title IX coordinator in the case of an incident, but are no longer required to give any identifying information about the victim unless the victim wishes it.

Before this amendment, there were only two levels, now referred to as Level One and Level Three. The first level is completely confidential, meaning there is no report filed with the Title IX coordinator without the student’s permission, except in cases where there is an immediate and serious threat to the student’s safety. This includes Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and ordained or listed religious advisors.

Level Three includes everyone else who has a “significant responsibility for students,” such as coaches, professors, and customs people acting in their official capacity. These people are mandatory reporters, meaning if they are told about an incident, they must report it to the Title IX coordinator, including identifying details, even if it is against the victim’s wishes.

The new regulations came about due to feedback from colleges to the federal Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for Title IX, the main set of regulations dealing with sexual assault on college campuses.

“We’re hoping the new level of confidentiality gives power back to the individual [who has been assaulted],” said Abi Moeller, a senior and a staff member at the Women’s Center, whose duties include manning the 24/7 student hotline. The hotline is used “mostly to connect students to the right resources,” but also to answer any questions pertaining to sexual misconduct, said Moeller. “It’s not just for moments of crisis.”

She added that the volume of calls to the hotline has been lower than it has been historically due to the previous the policy where the student hotline assistants had to provide identifying information to the Title IX coordinator. With the changes to the confidentiality rules, Moeller is hopeful that students will be more likely to utilize the hotline.

“Our number one priority is the safety of the victim,” said Lil Burroughs, Director of Operations at Public Safety and Haverford’s current Sexual Assault Investigator, the school is in the process of hiring a new, full-time person who will also be responsible for sexual assault education and training.

“We’re happy when students tell someone so they can begin healing,” Burroughs added.

The changes to Title IX also give institutions more discretion in pursuing sexual misconduct cases when the victim does not want to move forward with it. “We would try to honor as many requests as we can, unless we felt that the individual or community was at risk,” said Steven Watter, Haverford’s Title IX coordinator and the Dean of Student Life. “We want to support that student and what she or he wants to happen.” Unless an incident reported to a Level Two source is deemed to be an immediate threat to the victim or the community, the incident will simply be included in Haverford’s Clery Act statistics and no judicial process will move forward without the express wishes of the victim.

The Clery Act mandates the college make an annual report with crimes reported on or around campus, including burglary, liquor law violations, and forcible sexual assaults. In 2013, Haverford reported 4 forcible sexual assaults.

The Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, or SMPAC, is the organization on campus in charge of Haverford’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. It includes students, faculty, and staff, and works to “promote a culture of respect and consent on campus,” said Watter, who sits on the committee.  SMPAC was in charge of updating Haverford’s sexual misconduct website to reflect the changes in policy. “The website is based in great part on the feedback of students,” said Watter. The goal of the website is to “make ways to get help more visible and easily accessible,” he added.

“We have lots of resources on campus,” said Moeller. “The first one you reach out to may not be what works, but people shouldn’t feel like they don’t have a place to go. We [at the Women’s Center] are always here. We’re always available.” Moeller added that the Women’s Center is open to people of all genders and sexualities, as is the hotline, while SMPAC will be having its first meeting of the year later this week.

“The only way we are going to make progress is by working together as a community,” said Watter.

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