By Noah Manskar
The Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs approved a revised Ohio Wesleyan sexual misconduct policy on Sept. 3 after a lengthy review process by university administrators, faculty, staff and students.
According to Mike Esler, Coordinator of Student Conduct, the proposed policy uses more inclusive language—for instance, the term “sexual misconduct” has replaced “sexual assault.”
Additionally, information about where victims can get help has been moved to the top of the policy to make it more visible.
Esler said the policy also creates a third category of offenses called “Sexual Exploitation,” which the current policy does not have.
“(B)y comparing the definitions of Second Degree Sexual Assault under the current policy and Sexual Exploitation under the proposed policy some of what was covered by the former was shifted to the latter,” he said. “Sexual Exploitation also includes behaviors that are not covered by current policy.”
The proposed revisions also include changes to the procedures for appointing the authorities that hear sexual misconduct cases and appeals in the university judicial system and modify informal modes of resolution.
Senior Matt Swaim, chair of the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs Student Conduct Committee, said the changes make the policy easier to understand and provides greater specificity.
“Basically, we’re going to make the punishment fit the crime,” he said.
The revision committee also created a flowchart “as a tool (to) assist in breaking down the policy into a visual representation,” according to Dean of Students Kimberlie Goldsberry.
According to Esler, the revisions were made following a “Dear Colleague Letter” issued by the federal Department of Education to all institutions receiving Title IX funds.
He said the letter didn’t create any new policies for handling sexual misconduct, but summarized the Department’s standards and “encouraged colleges to use the document to evaluate their own policies.”
Esler said the current policy was mostly in compliance, but there was room for improvement. According to Swaim, the revisions were based on the University of Virginia’s policy.
“The relatively modest changes we made were both the result of the DCL (Dear Colleague Letter) and changes that we thought would improve our policy after we started reviewing it,” he said.
Goldsberry said she and Esler did “research, benchmarking and discussions” to aid the review process.
According to Swaim, representatives from the Student Conduct Committee, Counseling Services, the Women’s Resource Center, Public Safety and the Committee on Women and Gender, all helped craft the new policy.
The full OWU faculty will review the policy Sept. 10. According to Goldsberry, the faculty can either make it official OWU policy, or can remand it to the committee for further review if it finds it problematic.
Goldsberry said she thinks the latter is unlikely to happen.
“Policy revisions processes have become so thorough over the past years and involved legal counsel that confidence in the work done has been fairly high and support has been offered by faculty,” she said.
Swaim said the changes have a good chance of getting faculty approval.
“I think that the policy’s pretty complete and that we’ll be able to answer all the questions that the faculty have, so I would hope that it would pass, but I’m not really sure what to expect,” he said.
Goldsberry said policy reviews like these happen “fairly often,” but do not always result in changes.
In this case, she said, “there were only a limited number of administrative practices that needed modifications and all were manageable.”
According to Goldsberry, the Office of Student Conduct would be most affected by the changes, “but they work with other offices such as Public Safety, Residential Life, Counseling Services, and countless others to make it all come together.”
Editor’s Update: On Sept. 10, the OWU faculty did not contest WCSA’s decision to pass the revised exual misconduct policy. The revision is now part of university policy.