WMU Board Of Trustees Make Changes To Address Sexual Assaults
Officials at Western Michigan University say they are trying to better address campus sexual assaults.
According to a press release, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved the adoption of changes July 8 to the University's policy on sexual misconduct that are designed to encourage people to report incidents as well as streamline the process the University uses to respond.
The Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Stalking Policy and Procedures were first rolled out and implemented as an interim policy in January. After a five-month comment period in which members of the campus community provided input, the policy was refined and presented to the board for final approval.
The new policy is aimed at addressing Title IX violations and ensuring campus safety and is characterized by a number of best practices in the area. They include:
• An investigative model used by trained personnel who take a holistic, trauma-informed approach to work with a complainant to respond to incidents, replacing a hearing panel approach used earlier for student reports;
• Clear and unambiguous language that defines Title IX violations for the entire campus and informs both complainants and respondents about the process;
• Clearly described responsibilities of employees to report an incident they learn about; and
• A central campus location--the Office of Institutional Equity--designated as the office that accepts all reports and handles all Title IX violation allegations.
"We have had a longstanding commitment to outreach, education and prevention as it relates to sexual assault...Right now there's a lot of heightened attention and scrutiny, but we have been addressing these issues on our campus for a very long time," said Dr. Diane Anderson, vice president for student affairs, in presenting the policy to the board. "Right now I would tell you our focus is even more heightened. We're ramping up."
She outlined the longstanding University efforts to combat sexual misconduct that will continue and described a campus-wide educational effort that will be mounted to inform all members of the campus community of the policy elements and the resources available to address the issue.
"I think we have gone above and beyond and done an extraordinary job of addressing a very compelling issue," said Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp of Battle Creek after hearing the formal presentation to the board. "I am just very proud of everyone... the team that has put all this together, and I commend them all."
The proactive WMU work that led to the new policy predates the intense national media attention on campus sexual assault, which has included federal investigations at 85 colleges and universities, including three in Michigan. The federal investigations are looking at potential violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
More than a year ago, WMU engaged a national law firm, Pepper Hamilton, to review the University's procedures and help make them more effective. The Pepper Hamilton principals who worked with WMU were keynote presenters during Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder's June 8 statewide summit on sexual assault.
The new policy is available in full online at wmich.edu/policies.