Brittany Peck ~ Editor-in-Chief
Lynchburg College will be changing their approach to the zero-tolerance policy for Interpersonal Misconduct this school year.
The policy and disciplinary actions of the school will remain the same, but President Dr. Kenneth Garren stated that “this year is the first time no one is a bystander and everyone has to take action.”
The expanse of their “everyone” includes: The Board of Trustees, all employees and students, with a couple exceptions like the Counseling Center, Health Center, and some members of the Center for Spiritual Life. By including the entirety of LC as active parties the college hopes to keep everyone connected, aware, reminded and re-educated on Interpersonal Misconduct and how to report cases to LC’s new Title IX Coordinator Amanda McGovern.
Another progressive idea that is in progress is a new online module from a vendor that is making learning about sexual harassment, assault, rape, consent, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking interactive and specific to the LC campus.
These changes have been stirred in part by Professor Virginia Cylke and Associate Professor Elizabeth Savage’s “Yes Means Yes” class. President Garren stated that the class has spread his awareness on the subject by openly expressing their concerns with him.
McGovern has also sat in on a “Yes Means Yes” class to hear the students’ thoughts on the current policy and stated that “dialogue reveals policy changes that need to occur and where education needs to occur, but in this case [she believes] education is what is needed.”
One of the students closely involved with the meetings with President Garren is senior Nick Williams who wants the students campus-wide to be educated on the subject, so that there will be a respect shared for every student on campus and a greater realization of the importance of recognizing Interpersonal Misconduct.
The goal of everyone involved in spreading awareness of Interpersonal Misconduct is to provide cohesion and consistency in the handling of these circumstances, but President Garren said “safety is the number-one priority.”
When these cases do occur the complainant and respondent are the only two that have the right to speak about the case outside of the hearing because they are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA. To take it one step further, retaliatory behavior may be added to the list of complaints when it occurs.
The victims of Interpersonal Misconduct are under no time limit to report their complaint and not all complaints are campus involved, but McGovern stated that “too much time may impact resolutions.”
McGovern will be handling Interpersonal Misconduct complaints this year. With her position as title IX coordinator her goal is to specialize in these cases, so she will be working with the complainant to identify necessary accommodations and provide on-and-off campus resources to them.
The sanctions for Interpersonal misconduct are regarded as “strict” and McGovern stated that “suspension and expulsion have been sanctions for level A violations since 2011.”
During the disciplinary process the wishes of the offended party and prior incidents of the respondent are taken into account while sanctions are considered.
There is also an appeal process that goes through President Garren. He further has the right to modify, increase, or leave the sanctions alone for the respondent.