Student code of conduct changes on the way

After recent Title IX violations at Penn State University and Xavier University, the U.S. Department of Education sent a mandate to national colleges and universities, including Northern Kentucky University. But NKU was already ahead of the game, working to make changes to the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities before the mandate arrived.
“When the mandate came out, we had already started our journey,” Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple said.

The changes, which deal with the sexual misconduct policy and Title IX, are in the process of being endorsed by the Student Government Association, staff congress, faculty senate and the president’s executive team before being reviewed by the Board of Regents. “In a perfect world,” Waple said the changes will be approved at the November board meeting.
At the latest, they will be approved or denied in January 2013.

Waple and NKU’s Title IX Coordinator Ann James began writing changes to the Title IX section in 2011, before Penn State’s scandal broke. The Department of Education released the Dear Colleague Letter that provides guidance on making changes to sexual misconduct policies in April 2012.

The Dear Colleague Letter provides advice on how to handle concerns that arise in sexual violence cases. It also lists a school’s obligations under Title IX and sexual violence.

“One of the myths about Title IX is that it just has to deal with athletics, and it does certainly have a lot to do with athletics, but the purpose of Title IX is to provide educational services to all students regardless of gender,” James said. “So any gender-based harassment that could preclude someone from having access to educational services is a violation.”

The major changes in NKU’s code will go deeper into definitions involving Title IX, according to Waple, including how faculty and staff must handle sexual misconduct changes.
Under the new code, if a student reveals an act of sexual misconduct to a faculty or staff member, that employee will be required to report the misconduct. Because violations have to be reported, students will be able to choose their level of involvement in the case.

“That’s one of the huge barriers of why people don’t report … we want to make sure we communicate with students that’s not the case,” James said.
The changes will also speed up the process when a violation is filed. The university also follows the guideline of a 30-day process to complete an investigation and decide if it goes to the next step of hearings and appeals.

The appeals process is being shortened to five business days.

“We’re trying to expedite the process,” Waple said. In the changes, both parties will now be able to appeal, which is not allowed in the current code.
Once the changes are approved, the new code will go into effect immediately.

Currently, Waple and James are working to educate the entire faculty and staff on the upcoming changes. A deputy Title IX Coordinator is working with NKU’s human resources to develop training strategies that encompass the entire faculty and staff, as well as how to train incoming employees.

“We want to ensure that our faculty and staff understand how to report and their duty to report … even if they [students] say they don’t want you to tell,” Waple said. “That’s a big change on the college campus, that duty to report.”