November 26, 2018
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The external review, which was initiated by the College, is separate from the Title IX investigation being conducted by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Kenyon is cooperating fully with that investigation.
Samantha Hughes, our Title IX coordinator, will convene a campus advisory group to advise on the next steps in our process, and will share monthly updates on their progress. A campus forum about next steps will take place early next semester.
This fall President Decatur appointed an alcohol task force to recommend strategies to address the high-risk practices and behaviors related to the presence and consumption of alcohol on campus. Members of the task force include faculty, staff and students, and it is chaired by Jeff Moritz ’86, Trustee, and Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, Vice President for Student Affairs. Their report is expected in March 2017.
Kenyon is by no means alone in this issue. While there is always additional work to do, the report confirms that the College is already implementing many best practices and taking proactive measures to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.
As noted in the policy, a finding of responsibility for non-consensual sexual intercourse will result in suspension or dismissal (expulsion) for students or termination of employment for employees. Sanctions for all types of misconduct addressed by the College are made on a case-by-case basis using factors listed in the Student Handbook or the Title IX/VAWA policy.
Regardless of the outcome of the case, both parties have the right to appeal as explained in the policy, with those appeals being heard by the vice president for student affairs.
The investigator model provides more opportunity for all involved parties to respond over time, with more time to provide in writing and verbally the information they wish to have considered and reviewed, rather than having to think on their feet during a hearing, which can be a difficult process for all involved even without the underlying trauma that may surround the incident in question. Under the new model, two investigators — one from outside the College and one a Kenyon employee trained to investigate — interview the complainant, the respondent and witnesses, and review evidence. Investigators write an initial investigative report and allow the parties involved to review it and offer additional comments, questions, witnesses and evidence.
Then the investigators write a final report detailing responsibility, or non-responsibility, for each policy provision allegedly violated. Either the respondent or the complainant may appeal the determination. In short, there are several opportunities for both parties to share and react to information provided to the investigators, and those opportunities are designed to give them time to consider the information, collect their thoughts, and provide a comprehensive response.
Student-athletes are held to the same behavioral standards and expectations as non-athletes. The external review found that 31 percent of the investigations in 2015-16 involved a respondent who was a varsity athlete. Approximately one-third of Kenyon students are varsity athletes. Varsity-athlete respondents were found responsible in 47 percent of the claims made against them while non-varsity athletes were found responsible for 41 percent of the claims made against them.
A thorough investigation of a complex situation cannot be done in a rush. Two investigators — one from outside the College and one a Kenyon employee trained to investigate — interview the complainant, the respondent and witnesses, and review evidence. It takes time for the investigators to review all of the evidence and write a detailed and thorough report that incorporates input from both parties involved. According to the Department of Education, a Title IX investigation should typically be completed within 60 calendar days, but it may take much longer depending on the circumstances. The average length for investigations at Kenyon during the 2015-16 school year was 65 days, with more than half of the investigations occurring in under 60 days. The external reviewer noted that there were few, if any, addressable systemic issues that stood out as reasons for delay.
The College has increased the staff for Title IX issues, from one part-time person to the equivalent of two full-time people. New educational measures have been implemented to augment existing resources. For example, new students are required to complete an online education course on alcohol and sexual assault prevention prior to their arrival on campus. The College is also considering whether additional resources may be appropriate and how to more efficiently and effectively coordinate the various resources already allocated for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct.
Kenyon automatically notifies law enforcement when there is a report of a possible felony, such as rape. That’s required under Ohio law. Colleges and universities that receive federal funding are also required by the U.S. Department of Education to take appropriate action when notified of possible sexual harassment, including sexual assault. Under the guidance set forth by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a complainant can choose to proceed with both a law enforcement investigation and a Kenyon investigation, or one and not the other. As with any other type of student misconduct that is both against College policy and state law, the College determines if College policy has been violated, and whether the respondent may continue as a member of the Kenyon community.