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Univ. updates Rights and Responsibilities

By Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

September 2, 2016

A new process in the updated version of Rights and Responsibilities facilitates conversation between parties involved in sexual harassment cases, according to an Aug. 19 email from Director of Student Rights and Community Standards Kerry Guerard. Rights and Responsibilities contains many new changes including two key changes involving sexual misconduct.


The non-sexual misconduct changes this year include a formal definition of the term “bullying” in section 2.10.d. The rationale behind additions and changes varies. Defining bullying is considered a “clarification” because it expands upon enumerated terms.


Other decisions to update areas of Rights and Responsibilities are based on ensuring alignment with local laws. For example, students found responsible for an open or closed flame or caught smoking in a campus building may now be fined up to $150.00.


The new Rights and Responsibilities edition adds a provision to reduce possible violations of state alcohol laws. The mailroom will not accept packages from companies that primarily sell alcohol because they have no manner of confirming the authenticity of a state ID or passport.


Guerard noted that some policies are put into place prior to being written out in Rights and Responsibilities. Brandeis piloted new event registration policies in Spring 2016, but Rights and Responsibilities did not reflect these policy changes until now. “There are times when policy changes are piloted before being implemented … in general, we coordinate policy changes that are enumerated in R&R with the start of the school year. Policy changes are also possible mid-year, if needed, and in such cases we would amend R&R accordingly,” wrote Guerard.


Sexual Misconduct sections contained the most additions. NCO’s, No Contact Orders, existed in previous copies of the student code. However, the definition of an NCO and the process for obtaining one was never laid out.


According to the updated version, “NCOs state that a student is restricted from contact with a named individual(s) through verbal, physical or electronic means or via third parties.” An NCO is not a form of punishment, meaning it is not the result of an investigation and does not affect an ongoing investigation. A complaining party does not have to be engaged in an investigation to ask for an NCO. However, it is always the responsibility of student accused of misconduct to remove themselves from contact with the complaining party.


Restorative Justice (RJ) is a new process available to students who have experienced misconduct that does not include physical contact, such as verbal harassment and intimidation. RJ allows a complainant to sit down with the student accused of harassment and address the misconduct.


“We often hear from students who have experienced harm that they want the person who did the behavior to 1) understand that they caused harm 2) understand the impact the harm has had on the survivor 3) express genuine remorse and 4) take actions that show that the person who did the harm will not continue doing so in the future,” wrote Sheila McMahon, Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention.


RJ can be used in both processes that address sexual misconduct on campus. It can be facilitated during the sanctions phase of a Special Examiner’s Process and will have no bearing on the investigation itself. RJ can also be used as an element of the Informal Process.


The RCC and student advocates gave feedback on using RJ in cases of misconduct. McMahon indicated that the process may help provide more options for students seeking reparation. “Restorative justice provides a framework for the survivor and affected communities to voice the harm they’ve experienced and to engage in a solution-focused process with the parties who have done the harm,” said McMahon.
Anyone in the community can propose edits. Guerard reviews these proposals in conjunction with Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sheryl Sousa. Andrew Flagel gives the final approval as the university’s Chief Student Affairs Officer. “There is a link in the second semester on the Department of Student Rights and Community Standards website that allows anyone to submit proposed changes. I also spent some time speaking with faculty and staff members about anything they would like to see changed within the non-sexual misconduct sections,” wrote Guerard.

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