By Ellin Youse, Transcript Correspondent
The Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs is reforming Ohio Wesleyan’s sexual assault policy in response to new directives from the federal Department of Education.
The Student Conduct Committee is working with Michael Esler, judicial affairs coordinator, and Kimberlie Goldsberry, dean of students, in order to better adapt OWU to judicial policies.
The Department of Education oversees Title IX regulations of the High Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit sexual discrimination, sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct.
Because it receives federal funds from the Department of Education, the university must implement all Title IX regulations and amendments.
According to Esler, the changes made to OWU’s policy will be minimal, as the policy is already synchronized with Department of Education mandates.
“It turns out that our policy was already in compliance with most of the new guidelines, so we had to make relatively minor changes,” he said.
One of those changes is dropping the current mediation policy and replacing it with one that gives OWU more authority to bring about a resolution between the parties involved.
Additionally, parties will no longer be allowed to cross-examine one another during informal prosecution.
Another change is in the policy’s format. Esler said he and the committee hope to make the policy more “user friendly.”
“Because we were already reviewing our policy in light of the new Title IX requirements, we added new language and rearranged some of the sections to bring more clarity to the policy,” he said.
“Much of this involved specifying parts of the policy that were not written as clearly as they could be and to put in writing details of the process that were not in writing already.”
Esler said he and the Student Conduct Committee have already moved a section providing resources for victims of sexual misconduct to the top of the policy to increase accessibility for student use.
Sophomore Matthew Swaim, WCSA representative and member of the Student Conduct Committee, says the committee hopes to “perfect” the policy in relation to the Title IX mandates they need to follow.
“We are using the University of Virginia’s sexual assault policy as a source of reference for our changes,” Swaim said.
“According to Dr. Esler, the University of Virginia’s policy is considered the ‘cream of the crop’ in accordance with the federal mandate from last year. “
Freshman Memme Onwudiwe said the policy is of the upmost importance to the committee.
“We have to protect victims of sexual assault, as well as those falsely accused,” he said. “To do that we need to make the policy as effective as possible.”