At the most recent Senate meeting on November 13th, legislation was presented by co-authors Molly Unsworth ’18 and Kyle Fix ’19 to senators regarding recent violations to the college’s Title IX policy. Specifically, it advocates for mandatory notation on the transcript of “any student that chooses to withdraw while allegations of intimate partner violence, stalking, and/or sexual violence are pending”. Essentially, a notation would inform a school to which a violator is applying/transferring that he/she has been accused of such a violation. This resolution is in response to the recent uptick of incident reports of Title IX violations since 2012; in that year (2012-2013), there were 9 reports, while there were 32 reports in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the college’s Annual Title IX Report. Since 2012, the school has dismissed four students and suspended one after they were found responsible for violating Title IX. This resolution also addresses a larger, national trend of accused violators withdrawing from their respective college while still under investigation, stopping them from receiving all of the proper documentation which may help prevent them from committing violations at other schools. Unsworth and Fix cited the case of a student who withdrew from his previous school after being accused of sexual assault (thus avoiding notation, so the school to which he was transferring was unaware of the circumstances) and is now under investigation at his current school for sexually assaulting another female student.
The co-authors described the problem more generally as, “In current practices, there is a huge concern about getting predators or offenders off campuses, but no sense of follow through on the behaviors they have shown, or any care about the impact they can potentially have at future institutions”.
After some discussion, Senate resolved to pass the resolution by acclimation, which is a rare occurrence. ASWC President Arthur Schemitz noted, “Acclimation is the strongest expression of support that the Senate may give to a resolution. It is more powerful than just a unanimous vote as it expresses our deep commitment to and belief in the importance of the content of a resolution. We use acclimation sparingly, so that it can be applied only to the most significant resolutions that we want to lend our full and entire support behind”. Regarding this, Unsworth commented, “I was genuinely shocked. I had anticipated a lot more push-back from the senate, and the fact that so many people not only supported it, but wanted to give it the honor of passing it by acclimation, was such an incredible moment for both of us”.
Colleges similar to Whitman (Occidental, Emerson) have enacted similar policies to this one, and Unsworth and Fix hope that Whitman’s adoption of this policy will encourage other schools to follow suit, eventually creating a national standard.
An assault survivor herself, Unsworth is passionate about this sort of legislation and change, and is excited that the resolution was passed. However, she still sees much more that needs to be done regarding not only policies, but practices. For instance, she would like to see “further opportunities extended to the student body from the Dean of Students office that invite students to participate in critical dialogues surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence on this campus”. Still more, she hopes that the school will actually make efforts to act on those dialogues, rather than “the same conversations happening over and over again, with no results”.
The resolution still has to be approved by the administration, and may or may not be enacted by the end of this year.