A new Title IX and Violence Against Women Act policy for everyone on campus, approved by President Sean Decatur, takes effect on July 1. The policy has been endorsed by the Kenyon College Board of Trustees and approved by the Campus Senate, the faculty and the Kenyon Staff Council.
The policy brings Kenyon into compliance with new federal mandates governing sexual misconduct at higher education institutions.
“This new policy, approved after careful review by our campus community and with the help of legal counsel, enhances the safety of our students and our employees,” Decatur said. “At Kenyon, we expect our students and employees to treat each other with respect, and we will not tolerate abusive behavior. I’m confident that this approach to investigating and adjudicating complaints ensures fair treatment for all parties.”
Prominent among changes to the Kenyon policy is the creation of an investigator model that replaces the familiar hearing board model. In addition, the policy now clearly prohibits a dating or sexual relationship between College employees and students and prohibits such relationships that involve a couple with one person who has authority or power status over the other. In the case of established relationships in which a person takes on a supervisory role such as an academic department chair, the division executive will help manage any conflicts of interest that may arise.
The Title IX coordinator — now Civil Rights Coordinator Andrea Goldblum — will assess a complaint of prohibited conduct and determine if an informal resolution is possible or if a formal resolution is appropriate.
In the event that a formal resolution is required, Goldblum will select two highly trained and impartial investigators — at least one a College employee — to examine a complaint and determine if the policy was violated. Investigators will conduct interviews and gather physical evidence. The person making the complaint and the person responding to the complaint have an equal opportunity to be heard, to submit questions to the investigators to be asked of the other person, to submit evidence and to identify witnesses.
If investigators determine that a violation of the policy has occurred, based on the preponderance of evidence, they submit their findings to an adjudicator. For students, the adjudicator is typically the director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, now Samantha Hughes; for faculty, the provost, now Joseph Klesner; and for other employees, the human resources director, now Jennifer Cabral. Sanctions range up to dismissal for students and termination of employment for employees. The policy includes an appeals process.
Part of Goldblum’s role is to help guide a fair and equitable process during the course of the investigation and into a resolution. “This single policy puts us right up there with best practices and is much more user-friendly for everyone involved with the process,” Goldblum said.
A Title IX coordinator does not work alone, Goldblum said. “This is everybody’s work. My role is to provide oversight, but this belongs to everybody. We all have a role to play.” Comprehensive education and training on Title IX issues has already started, Goldblum said, and will be a continuous effort.
Enactment of the policy should not be seen as a means to shut down “legal discourse,” she said. “This does not say that we can’t disagree with someone. We don’t have to censor ourselves except that we cannot deny the rights of others in doing so.”
The policy was developed with the help of legal counsel and the contributions of Goldblum; Hughes; Chief of Staff Susan Morse; Linda Smolak, the former interim Title IX coordinator and professor emerita of psychology; and Dean of Students Henry “Hank” Toutain.