Brandeis already mostly complying with proposed bills

May 3, 2019

Brandeis is largely in compliance with two bills on sexual misconduct and sexual violence before the Massachusetts legislature, according to Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) Sonia Juardo.

The two bills would require a biennial sexual misconduct climate survey and the other requires policies on sexual violence and misconduct to be public. They were presented to the Joint Committee on Higher Education of Massachusetts in early April. If the bills would go into effect, Brandeis would review its policies, wrote Juardo to The Hoot.

H.1208/S.736 (An act requiring sexual misconduct climate surveys at institutions of higher education) would require biennial sexual misconduct climate survey to be submitted to the department of higher education and a summary of the results to be posted on the Brandeis web page.

The survey would be required to include the number of incidents, when and where they occurred and demographic information about at-risk groups among other factors, according to the bill.

Brandeis conducted its most recent campus climate survey this year, and the results will be released in the fall of the upcoming academic year, according to Juardo. The most recent results available come from a 2015 campus climate survey, accessible on the Brandeis website. According to the bill, universities would be able to use their own survey instead of one provided by the state.

H.1209/S.764 (An act relative to sexual violence on higher education campuses) requires policies regarding dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and sanctions and penalties for these offenses to be public. “All of Brandeis’s policies regarding these issues are available to the public. They can currently be found on the Title IX web page,” wrote Juardo, who is also the university Title IX coordinator, in an email interview to The Brandeis Hoot.

The Office of Equal Opportunity addresses complaints of sexual misconduct within the Brandeis community. The bill requires that investigators are regularly trained. “Ongoing annual professional development happens for all of these individuals, through conferences, webinars, professional associations and other sources of relevant information to this work,” wrote Juardo.

Possible sanctions for sexual violence or misconduct are listed in the rights and responsibilities student code. There are a range of sanctions—from a warning to dismissal from Brandeis—but they are not tied to specific student violations.

Protective measures for students are also required to be made public by the bill and are available in the Brandeis student Rights and Responsibilities. These measures can include “no contact orders, relocation of residence hall room, or restricting the responding party’s movements on, or access to, campus,” according to Rights and Responsibilities.  

The bill also requires that types of support and the rights of students to notify law enforcement are made public to students. For accused individuals outside the Brandeis community, Juardo wrote that, “we will work with the reporter to discuss what options may be available to address that conduct, such as reporting to law enforcement.  It would be the reporter’s decision regarding whether to pursue any course of action.”

The bill also asks that university policies are applied in a “culturally competent way.” “Being culturally sensitive is something that Brandeis is always working on,” Jurado wrote to The Hoot.

The OEO handles investigations into all allegations of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct brought forward by faculty, staff and students. The OEO is located in Swig Hall in the Intercultural Center.

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