By LAURA HUMBLE – STAFF WRITER
Centre has made a recent profound change in their policy regarding sexual misconduct, a change that impacts every student on this campus, but one that many are not aware of.
“We want to send a clear and unmistakable statement against sexual misconduct of all kinds, especially sexual violence. We focused on moving away from separate policies contained in student and faculty and staff handbooks. The new document eliminates inconsistences and incorporates updated definitions of sexual misconduct,” Director of Human Resources and Administrative Services at Centre College Kay Drake said.
Highlights of the revised policy, according to Drake, are that it applies to all students, faculty, and staff; it clearly defines sexual misconduct; it allows for the Title IX team to more easily ensure the college responds to all reports of sexual misconduct; and it considers RAs and RDs as responsible employees required to report any allegations of sexual misconduct. To read the sexual misconduct policy in full, please consult page 93 of the 2014-2015 Student Handbook.
So what are students’ reactions to these changes?
Many were unaware they had occurred. “I was unaware that they made any changes. It just didn’t register with me,” junior and president of Centre Democrats Jeffrey Podis said. “I guess I just can’t see myself as ever being sexually assaulted so it had less of an emotional impact.”
The change in the sexual misconduct policy prompted Centre to ask everyone to complete the Haven module at the start of term.
“We’ve asked everyone to complete this online program tailored to students and staff and faculty so everyone becomes familiar with our college’s updated sexual misconduct policy and the critical issues of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking that impact countless college students across the country. Haven was selected … in part because it includes some pre- and post-survey questions to help Centre’s Title IX team better understand our students, staff, and faculty’s awareness of the college’s policy and resources,” Drake said.
“Haven was much longer than I thought it would be,” Podis said. “It included a lot of important information. My only concern is that it was so long that people might begin to lose interest.”
Senior and co-president of Centre Feminists Claire Phillips had a somewhat different view on the program. “I thought it was a little shallow, but I understand that it’s only a first step,” Phillips said. “Also, it didn’t require a lot of engagement. I think a lot of people might have just clicked through it without reading it.”
Phillips is encouraged by Centre’s changes to the sexual misconduct policy, and is eager to see the campus go even farther.
“It’s great that Centre is addressing concern about sexual assault,” Phillips said. “It’s a great first step. I’d like to see us go further with education on this topic, like with something that uses real dialogue.”
Senior and president of Centre Republicans Caroline Anderegg thinks Haven has already sparked dialogue. “I think the Haven program was successful in the sense that it opened up opportunities for peer-to-peer dialogue about the realities of sexual assault on our campus,” Anderegg said. “Unfortunately, it is a problem at Centre that occurs more than many students realize or are willing to admit.”
All three students stated this policy spoke to the culture in which we live. “The policy changes reflect the unfortunate reality that college campuses nationwide are still not safe and that sexual assault and misconduct are still major problems,” Anderegg said.
Podis has a similar viewpoint. “Male culture breeds the idea that [a lot of] sex is a good thing,” he said. “This culture, in turn, leads to more sexual assault.”
Students are being proactive about this topic now. Centre Feminists is partnering with Centre’s Panhellenic and Interfraternal Councils to host HeaRT (Healthy Relationships Together) Week.
“It will be the last week in September and it will focus on healthy relationships between men and women,” Phillips said. Events will include sex trivia in Cowan and Cheese for Charity, a grilled cheese sale run by PHC, the proceeds of which going toward the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center.
Centre Democrats will also be promoting feminism this fall by holding their annual Crit Luallen dinner to which they hope to invite Secretary of State of Kentucky, Allison Lundergan-Grimes and Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear. They also hope to partner with Centre Feminists for an event this year.
It is perhaps comforting to note that, no matter the political leaning or particular approach, the concern about sexual assault seems to be making headway. Brighter still, as Centre continues to diversify and grow, its campus seeks to maintain its record of safety and acceptance.