Panel of students, faculty and staff address updated codes on sexual assault
THE SANTA CLARA
February 12, 2014
After federal and state legislation narrowed the definition of harassment and assault, Santa Clara has created a task force to draft a policy concerning sexual misconduct and discrimination.
The task force will update Santa Clara policies in line with a state law passed last September, which requires all post-secondary institutions in California receiving state funds for financial aid to update their definitions of affirmative consent in regards to sexual assault cases.
According to the law, it would not be considered affirmative consent if one of the parties engaging in sexual activity was intoxicated, asleep, incapacitated or had a mental or physical disability that made them unable to communicate.
The task force is also responsible for creating a unified investigation process, overseen by the Equal Employment Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator, and will establish a system of sanctions for acts of discrimination, harassment and sexual violence.
Their actions will update Staff Manual Policy 311, “Prevention of Unlawful Harassment and Discrimination.”
The task force met for the first time on Monday to focus on the duties of the fledgling committee. Several members said that it is most important for the potential policies to have clear language.
“(We) want to ensure that members of the campus community understand their rights and options for the resolution of complaints of alleged discrimination and harassment,” said Belinda Guthrie, EEO and Title IX Coordinator and chair of the task force, in an email. “(We will) write Policy 311 in a way that is clear, accessible and not cumbersome or intimidating.”
The university administration approached the challenge by drawing from members of the whole Santa Clara community. Faculty, staff and students are all serving on the task force.
“There was real concern about a ‘top down’ approach to this issue,” said Professor Nancy Unger, a task force member. “This policy needs to fit the Santa Clara culture. The body that was asked to convene is representative of the whole campus.”
Due to the pressing nature of sexual harassment and discrimination cases, the committee hopes to complete their work by the end of the academic year, according to School of Law professor Gary Neustadter.
Once their policy draft is complete, it will be sent to the Faculty Senate for consideration and to the Santa Clara Board of Trustees for final approval.
Once approved, the changes to the policy will go into effect immediately.
Contact Nicolas Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.