The final report of the University Advisory Committee (UAC) Subcommittee on Sexual Violence was released on the Provost’s website earlier this month. The Provost appointed the subcommittee in 2013. It completed the report in June, and in November, attached an addendum responding to the 2014-15 Brandeis “Rights and Responsibilities.” Upon completion, the subcommittee released the report to the Senior Administration, Faculty Senate, UAC, a handful of Board of Trustees members and Brandeis’ Task Force on sexual violence. Some points in the report have been addressed, and others may be addressed soon, now that the report is public.
The report encourages reform in various departments and encourages the development of policies which show “compassion and fairness” for students. The hope is to create an environment where students feel comfortable reporting sexual violence. There is also great emphasis on informing students and faculty of Brandeis’s policies.
The report begins by praising a series of “improvements since 2011.” Its subsequent recommendations are divided into 12 sections, the first dealing with Title IX policies. The subcommittee would like the process of reporting sexual violence, faculty obligations and matters of confidentiality to be very clear.
The report also states that members would like Brandeis’ Title IX Officer and her duties to be more “widely known,” with the information publicized around campus and online. It explains that, as of June, Brandeis’ harassment and Title IX policies were difficult to locate. It requests that Brandeis clearly designate all faculty “responsible employees,” thus requiring them to report information they hear regarding sexual violence. The report states Brandeis must post a written guide and “train faculty on how to respond to students who disclose to them,” recommending in-person sessions of at least one hour.
In an email to The Brandeis Hoot in which she evaluated the response to the report, co-chair of the subcommittee Prof. Bernadette Brooten praised Brandeis for clarifying that all faculty are “responsible employees.” Brooten, who is a also member of the Task Force, explained they are currently writing a Sexual Violence Policy and faculty guide.
As of now, Brandeis’ harassment policy and guides for faculty on reporting sexual violence and assisting survivors are on the Provost’s webpage. A Resource Guide for Sexual Assault Survivors became available online in July. In an interview with The Hoot, Sheila McMahon, who served as “ex-officio” on the subcommittee, said an updated version of the guide goes to print today and will be posted online. This guide will include Title IX Coordinator Rebecca Tiller’s information. McMahon explains Tiller will introduce herself at the Rape Crisis Center open house on Tuesday, and that a webpage for her is being developed.
Brandeis has also adopted a more comprehensive training program. There is mandatory online Title IX training which, according to Brooten, over 95 percent of faculty completed. Sessions will be held throughout February and March, and Brooten stated that the Task Force will review the training.
The report explains that the university must “balance the safety of the campus as a whole” with the need to protect and respect survivors. Brooten believes Brandeis still needs to “publicly disclose its procedures” when a “complainant requests confidentiality,” as the report proposes.
Later, the report stresses the importance of training students on their Title IX rights, and going beyond the “Speak About It” training from orientation. In her email, Brooten maintains this must be a top priority moving forward. Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) member Evelyn Milford ’16 agrees, stating it is “a necessary measure to ensure transparency. Programs, such as ‘Speak About It’ are a first step in informing students of their rights, but there need to be more clear and concise ways in which students are informed of their legal rights.”
McMahon explains many departments are working to explore many different trainings and hopes to develop “a comprehensive training model that’s campus wide but tailored to specific groups.” She explains some new trainings were tested this year during mid-year orientation. McMahon would like everyone on campus to feel they understand Brandeis’s policies.
Sections of the report propose changes within two major departments, Public Safety and the Dean of Students Office. Each department stressed that Brandeis must strive to be a place where students feel safe and can expect fair treatment, thereby encouraging them to report sexual violence.
The report states that Public Safety must work harder to enforce No-Contact Orders (NCO), filings formal Community Standards Reports (CSR) against students who violate them. It explains Public Safety had issued zero in five years, although several students “reported they had been breached.” The subcommittee believes complainants should be allowed to review police reports and that all campus police should participate in training on handling sexual violence.
B.SASV member Ava Blustein ’15 agrees with the report’s point that “NCOs should not be bilateral” as students “found responsible for sexual misconduct should not be able to retaliate against the survivor by filing a counter-NCO.”
In an email to The Hoot, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan said he greatly appreciates the subcommittee’s work and “the time they have dedicated to focus on this important issue.” Callahan reports, “I am in the process of reviewing its recommendations. I have been overseeing the development of two in-service training programs for Brandeis University Police staff that address some of the report’s recommendations. We will have a diversity and cultural awareness training class in May and a two-day Title IX sexual investigation course this June.”
In her email, Brooten noted the university still needs to “reconsider its policies on No-Contact Orders.”
The subcommittee requests the Dean of Students Office make its policies clear, always “apply restrictions consistently across cases” and enforce such restrictions. Within the Dean of Students Office, students can report inappropriate behavior to the Department of Student Rights and Community Standards (DRSCS). DRSCS is responsible for composing Brandeis’ “Rights and Responsibilities,” which includes many definitions and policies relevant to sexual violence as well as the Special Examiners Process (SEP). The subcommittee proposes numerous alterations to wording and content of “Rights and Responsibilities” in the original report and the November addendum.
The report also states expulsion should be the expected punishment for rape, but notes survivors’ wishes should be taken into account when determining sanctions. The document urges Brandeis to “[increase] cultural competency” in serving its diverse population. It suggests that training include relevant information, that the PCC employ therapists fluent in world languages and counselors who understand the cultural backgrounds international students have in sexual violence. It recommends the campus climate survey “include questions on ethnicity, race and culture.”
Reflecting on progress, Brooten stated the PCC now offers therapy in various languages, though she feels Brandeis still needs to consider culturally conscious ways to support international students. Brooten wrote, in her email, it is imperative “that race, ethnicity, religion, disability and LGBTIQ concerns become central to all training and educational efforts.”
McMahon explained that, in staffing the RCC, “we really thought a lot about how can we have broad representation of students and that includes international students.”
McMahon is “thrilled” that the report is now public. She said of the subcommittee members, “I think that whole group really has hung in there and fought through a lot of these important issues.”
Blustein said she hopes that now “more students will become familiar with [the report]” and stated that “B.SASV is planning to highlight parts of the report publicly so that we can continue a wider conversation about potential improvements in our community.”
Milford wrote, “I am hoping that students will take the time to read this document as a way to further their knowledge about their rights as students under Title IX.”