By Stephen Gruber-Miller
The College has begun implementing changes to decrease sexual misconduct on campus following the meeting three weeks ago of a student advisory committee and a visit from Title IX consultants. The changes, which include extra safety measures at Harris parties, directions to student staff on how to report sexual misconduct and new administrative positions, are being spearheaded by Title IX Coordinator Angela Voos.
The most immediate change is that the Harris Center is now open until 3 a.m. after parties, providing food and a space for students to relax.
Voos hopes that this change will provide an opportunity for students to sober up and gather their thoughts after parties.
“If people have been drinking a lot, really the only thing that’s going to help them clear their minds, to sober up, is time,” she said.
Harris staff members have also implemented changes to the dance floor, setting up tables and chairs near the back wall so that students can sit down and take a break if they want, expanding the dancing area to allow students more personal space while dancing, and having low levels of lighting during parties for increased visibility.
Assistant Dean of Students Andrea Conner explained that the dance floor changes were easy to implement and maintain since they are related to the Harris building itself.
“These were facility related changes that are essentially permanent,” she said.
The last two weekends have served as a pilot program for keeping Harris open later and making food available. Conner noted that ACE security and student staff have stepped up to cover the extra shifts.
Many students have stepped up to help.
“We’ve had plenty of interest,” Conner said. “Frankly, I’ve gotten really good feedback from students.”
In fact, many of the changes that have occurred at Harris were suggested by students at the student advisory committee meeting.
Voos stressed that student feedback has been crucial in directing her efforts to make changes and that Harris was an area of concern for many people.
“They observed that there may be an issue between when a Harris party is over and the transition to whatever is next,” she said.
The ultimate goal of these changes is to make sure students are safe and feel comfortable at Harris.
“We just want it to be a fun place,” Voos said.
There are other changes in the works as well, such as a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy and a new sexual respect website that will provide information about the policy, as well as a list of resources and ways for students to get involved and have their voices heard.
Voos has also created three deputies who will be responsible for specific aspects of the College’s sexual misconduct policy.
Dean of Students Travis Greene is in charge of case management and is responsible for overseeing specific reported instances of misconduct. Wellness Coordinator Jen Jacobsen ’95 carries out the College’s preventative measures and Professor Emerita of Physical Education Dee Fairchild is the Deputy Director for Policy.
Loose Student Adviser (SA) Eve McDaid ’15 said she is worried that student relationships with SAs may be disrupted since SAs now have to report instances of sexual misconduct. She said she is concerned this may discourage students from coming forward with problems.
Conner said the College is aware of the issue.
“We are trying to abate that concern by educating students, and Student Staff, about why the College is required to investigate and prevent sexual misconduct,” she wrote in an email.
Since student staff members, including SAs, must now report incidents of misconduct, Voos has designed wallet-sized information cards to be given to faculty and student staff. The cards contain a list of campus and community resources and specify which resources are confidential.
The back of the card contains language that College employees can use to speak to students who come to them with cases of sexual misconduct.
“I am not a professional counselor, and I can’t keep this information to myself,” the card reads. “It is important for me to connect you to the Title IX Coordinator, who will meet with you to help you take care of your own personal safety, and physical and emotional well-being, direct you to resources, and explain your options if you want the College to take action.”
Conner says the intent of the language is to help student staff more easily express College policy to their peers, which they often haven’t had to do before.
“We drafted some sentences that people could use if a fellow student or a friend was opening up to them about something related to sexual misconduct,” she said.
McDaid is confident that the changes will have a positive effect in the long term.
“It’s going to be a very helpful process,” she said.
With many strong ideas for change coming from students, Voos is interested in soliciting more feedback from campus.
“The people who really have the answers are the students and they have stepped up to the plate in a wonderful way,” she said.
The student advisory committee meetings are a venue for Voos to get an idea of student opinions. She encourages students to attend the next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Noyce 1245.