Reporting policy under assessment
The University is currently in the process of creating an avenue for select faculty members to become confidential sources, meaning that they would not have to report identifiable information about students who approach them to disclose if they or someone they know was a victim of sexual misconduct.
Although the University recently mandated all faculty and staff members to report sexual violence and harassment to Title IX Coordinator Linda Shinomoto, a number of faculty and University employees have agreed that there should be a path for faculty who are trained in handling sexual assault and harassment to become confidential sources.
“There is some tension between the importance of reporting incidents so that they can be investigated and addressed, and the importance of promoting a campus culture that makes formal reporting safe and confidential for student survivors,” Prof. Rani Neutill (ENG) wrote.
Mandatory reporting, a term derived from the Clery Act, is a requirement for higher education institutions to report incidents of sexual misconduct when they are made aware of such incidents. Under this standard, faculty and staff do not have to reveal personally identifiable information about victims or individuals involved. Reporting is primarily used to gather crime statistics for colleges and universities. Faculty members who are considered confidential sources fall under this standard. Counseling services and chaplains, for example, are considered confidential sources, Neutill continued.
All other faculty and staff are considered responsible employees, which is a term derived from Title IX and the Department of Education’s April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter that further detailed a universities’ specific responsibilities in cases of sexual misconduct. Responsible employees must report all cases of sexual misconduct to the University, as well as the identity of whoever reports an incident and of all parties involved, if known.
The policy of mandated reporting was a previous topic of discussion for the University Advisory Council Subcommittee on Sexual Violence. According to Prof. Bernadette Brooten’s (NEJS) interim report on the subcommittee for the Nov. 1, 2013 Faculty Senate meeting, faculty discussed whether or not they wished to be required to report complaints of student-on-student sexual violence, even when the student requests confidentiality.
Brooten noted that some faculty members preferred reporting requirements for public safety concerns, while others felt that this should be handled on a case-by-case basis. The agreement, however, was that a clear procedure was necessary.
“One suggestion was that a mandate to report be decoupled from the punitive tone of ‘reporting,’ so that the action of reporting could be seen more as an assistant in the therapeutic movement that needs to take place for the survivor/victim, rather than as pursuing punishment for the accused,” the report reads.
Although who should be deemed “responsible employees” is not directly specified in the Dear Colleague Letter, the April 2011 Department of Education document titled “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” states that a responsible employee is any employee “who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.” If a responsible employee is aware of a student-on-student case of sexual harassment or assault, the Office of Civil Rights concedes that the institution “reasonably” should have known about the situation and subsequently investigated and taken action.
Brooten noted in her report that faculty are also not legally required to be designated as mandated reporters but that General Counsel Steve Locke viewed faculty as already mandated to do so by Brandeis policy and “strongly prefers that faculty be mandated reporters.”
Neutill wrote that determining which faculty will have a gateway to become confidential resources will be based on “a perceived counseling component to the teaching role, and experience/training in supporting survivors.”
“We want to make sure that confidential sources are trained to respond to disclosures,” she wrote. Neutill encouraged all students who are not sure about whether they should make a formal report to go to the Office of Prevention Services, the Psychological Counseling Center or the Interfaith Chaplaincy.