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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Sexual Misconduct Policy series part two: Reactions

What does the policy mean for a professor?

The implementation of a new Sexual Misconduct Policy at Saint Joseph’s University has raised concerns with some faculty members.

As a responsible employee, all faculty members are now obligated to report any incidents of sexual misconduct that they are made aware of to Mary-Elaine Perry, Ph.D., the Saint Joseph’s Title IX coordinator.

Ann Green, Ph.D., professor of English, said her main concern is the policy will affect the relationship between professor and student, and alter how comfortable students feel coming to professors to talk about personal experiences.

“Now, since I’m a mandated reporter, my fear is that I would have to interrupt a conversation and say, ‘I’m a mandated reporter, do you want to keep telling me this?’ rather than be a support,” Green said.

Millicent Feske, Ph.D., associate professor of theology, expressed similar concerns.

“I would want to be there to listen to them because that’s the fundamental thing,” Feske said. If students are able to speak about their trauma, that is the first step to recovery.

Feske said that students should have full control over this process as, according to the law, they are considered adults.

“They’re adults; they should be able to decide,” Feske said. “This is a matter of

Some professors fear that students will

shy away from talking to faculty if they feel that arena is no longer a safe space for them.

“My sense is that students will simply not report if they know that this is the pol- icy,” Feske said. “It’s certainly counterproductive for the student, because if they’re at the point where they’ve come to a faculty member to tell this… for me to have to say ‘don’t tell me, I can’t talk to you’ is turning curiae personalis on its head.”

“In some ways it takes the story out of the victim’s hands,” Green said.

Green also said she would be willing to participate in a training session if that meant she could be a certified confidential source.

Feske agreed saying she feels the university could train faculty on how to correctly handle situations when a student comes to talk to them about an experience, while also maintaining confidentiality.

“I understand the intent of the law. The intent of the law is to make us more transparent and compliant with Clery and have better data on sexual assault on campuses,” said Green. “It’s a really good intent, but because someone who’s a victim of sexual assault has already been violated. I want to respect what they want to do as much as I can.”


What does the policy mean for a survivor?

In January of 2009 Ann Lee, a student of Saint Joseph’s University at the time, was drugged and raped by a fellow St. Joe’s student.

After the incident, she wasn’t really sure what had happened. She didn’t talk about it for months. By the time the end of the semester rolled around in May, she had developed Post Traumatic Stress Dis- order.

“I was seriously thinking about killing myself, it had gotten that bad,” Lee said.

One day Lee said she was sitting in her academic adviser’s office when her adviser asked Lee if she was okay. Lee said she broke down in tears.

“And she didn’t say anything,” Lee said. “She just grabbed my hand and walked me right over to the rape crisis counselor… and that was exactly what I needed.”

With the new university Sexual Mis- conduct Policy, all faculty, staff, and administrators are now responsible employees. This means that they are obligated to report any instances of sexual misconduct they are made aware of to Mary-Elaine Perry, the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

Some faculty members are upset over this change, because they feel it dismantles the realm of confidentiality and could affect the relationship between student and professor.

But Lee feels the opposite.

She said that a person who is a survivor of sexual misconduct is extremely traumatized afterwards, and is often un- sure of what to do or how to think logically about the situation. She herself had undergone similar feelings.

“I was so fucked up that I didn’t know what I needed,” said Lee, “you have to recognize that this is an extremely traumatic experience and people aren’t thinking straight, and I needed somebody to just take my hand and talk to somebody.”

Lee said she agrees with the obligatory reporting aspect of the policy, because if she had been given the opportunity to decide not to talk about it, she never would have.

“If [the academic adviser] had been like, ‘Do you really want this; do you re- ally want to talk about this,’ then I would

be like ‘No I don’t want to talk about this, because you’re making it seem like I shouldn’t,’” Lee said.

Lee said she disagreed with the argument that this policy change would get rid of confidentiality for survivors.

“Having everybody on the same page about this I think is huge,” Lee said. “It’s not black and white, you can’t say that it’s going to cause these really negative, horrible things.”

Most faculty members are not aware how to take care of someone who has been sexually assaulted. In this case, the survivor’s story stops at the professor who may not be fully equipped to help the student, Lee said.

“If I confided only in [my adviser] that could be extremely taxing on the pro- fessor—the professor is not equipped to handle that type of trauma,” Lee said.

“This is not a confidence issue,” she continued. “You need to know what steps to take because this is an extremely high level of trauma that this individual is going through. Unless you’re a medical professional, you will not know how to deal with it in the right way.”

It was her professor that got her through her own experience with assault and provided her with the support she needed. Lee graduated from Saint Joe’s in 2013 and is now working as an executive at a software company in Boulder, CO. She lives with her boyfriend and dog, Sadie.

“The faculty at Saint Joe’s is so com- passionate…they really care,” she said, “[And] once I was able to get the support I needed, I finished school because I was able to get that support.”

Obligatory reporting does not mean that a report will turn into a criminal investigation or charges. Instead, the information reported will be given to someone who is able to help the survivor in the best way possible, Lee said.

“I think this will do nothing but open people up to talking about what happened, knowing that they can literally just talk to anyone on campus,” Lee said. “They’re not reporting it to the police; they’re reporting it to someone who actually knows what they’re doing and who can give you the support the need.”

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