Presidential Oversight Committee works to improve campus climate

Rachel Robertson

Oversight Committee seeks to improve the college’s sexual violence policies

The Presidential Oversight Committee is striving to improve Lafayette’s policies dealing with sexual violence on campus.

The Presidential Oversight Committee on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment released recommendations to improve Lafayette’s policies and procedures relating to sexual violence on campus.

The committee’s work had three major components. The group focused on Lafayette’s policies relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment, the procedures for handling such crimes, as well as education and prevention, according to committee chair Olga Duhl.

“Our overarching goal is to create a climate that is free of any form of sexual violence or harassment, and to ensure this through enhanced education, training, and refinement of our policies and procedures,” Byerly wrote in an email to the Lafayette community.

Appointed in the fall of 2013 by President Byerly, the committee is comprised of faculty, students, and staff who work to facilitate improvements to Lafayette’s campus community.

“One of the amendments to current policy that we recommended was the additions of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking as reportable crimes, using the definitions recommended by the federal government,” Duhl said.

The college has also instituted the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Advocates program as a direct result of the committee’s recommendations, Duhl said.

“These advocates will serve a supportive role for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment and assist in making certain students are aware of the range of resources available to them,” Vice President for Campus Life and Senior Diversity Officer Annette Diorio wrote in an email to campus. “We are grateful to the group of faculty and staff who have volunteered to serve as SASH Advocates.”

Programs such as HAVEN and various presentations and workshops given during new student orientation are part of the college’s education and prevention tactics, according to Diorio’s email.

Another strong recommendation of the committee is the hiring of a dedicated Title IX Coordinator for the college. Currently, Dean of Intercultural Development John McKnight and Director of Human Resources and Employment Lisa Rex serve as Title IX coordinators for students and employees, respectively, in addition to their primary jobs for the college, Duhl said.

“The Title IX Coordinators primary responsibilities are overseeing the processes,” Byerly said. “I think the goal in hiring an external Title IX Coordinator is to recognize that this is a field where significant expertise is needed. We feel that the campus would be best served by someone whose primary focus is on this role. Someone who can be constantly occupied and learning best practices, gaining the necessary education and working closely with members of the community.”

In the spring of 2014, the committee held a series of open meetings for students and faculty to express their concerns, opinions and experiences with the issue of sexual violence on campus.

“We had a lot of dialogue with the community,” Duhl said. “The most important thing for us is to focus on sexual assault, which is a nationwide issue…everywhere in the country, people are paying more attention to sexual assault and harassment.”

Although some of the committee’s recommendations and changes are already in effect or finalized, other changes are still up for approval, according to Duhl. The revised sexual assault policy has been submitted to the college, but will be voted on at the upcoming faculty meeting in November.

The group will continue to oversee the training, education and prevention programs, as well as insuring Lafayette’s policies reflect federal regulations and recommendations.

“We are committed to providing the best support and resources to our community should sexual misconduct occur, and to maintaining fair and equitable procedures that reflect best practices in responding to complaints of sexual misconduct,” Byerly said.