Over the summer, Colorado College implemented the Anti-Discrimination Policy. The policy reads as such: “Colorado College does not discriminate and does not tolerate discrimination against students, faculty, staff, applicants for admission and employment, and visitors, in its education programs and activities and its employment practices on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, marital status, disability, religion, veteran status, age or any other status protected under local, state or federal law.” The new policy strives to “prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by educating students, faculty, and staff about behaviors that may constitute prohibited conduct,” and works in unison with the college’s Gender-Based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy and Procedures which,” address discrimination, harassment and retaliation that is based on gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.”
Originally approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2017, this year marks the official merging of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator’s (SARC) office with the Wellness Resource Center, located on the second floor of the Worner Center.
“The Wellness Resource Center functions as a hub for prevention on campus, and the SARC’s position is primarily response, but also prevention of gender violence, sexual health, and relationship health-type issues. Now that the SARC is within the Wellness Resource Center, hopefully it will make that response and prevention side more integrated, which is really cool,” said Montana Bass ’18, one of two paraprofessionals for the Wellness Resource Center.
Bass went on to explain that the former SARC, Maria Mendez, got an opportunity to work at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and that the college is currently looking for a replacement for Mendez. In her stead, Heather Horton has taken over as interim SARC and will be overseeing the student groups that fell under Mendez’s consult. Bass also emphasized that people looking for a confidential resource should go to Horton, and the SARC-on-call 24 hours hotline will still be accessible.
Title IX Coordinator and professor of sociology, Gail Murphy-Geiss also spoke to the changes made under the Anti-Discrimination policy. “Title IX is a one sentence law that says that anyone is entitled to full participation in any college program and they cannot be barred or discriminated against based on sex” said Murphy-Geiss. “Title IX protects students specifically, but faculty and staff are actually protected by Title XII. So anyone who says they’ve been sexually discriminated against, either through sexual harassment, or sexual assault, can do a number of things. Often they first talk to a confidential source, so that would be the SARC, or chaplain, someone at Boettcher Health Center, and determine how they want to proceed so that person can explain that process to them.” “Once they come to me or Rochelle Mason we can process their report. We don’t call it a complaint because that just sounds like you’re going to target and saying oh this doesn’t fit me, it just sounds so trite. It’s really a report that someone broke the college policy.”
Murphy-Giess also explained the difference between an informal and formal resolution, explaining that an informal resolution could take any form, such as a letter. “It’s meant for people who we think would be receptive to hearing that their behavior was problematic and they would change their behavior with knowing that” said Murphy-Giess. She explained that formal resolutions are for more serious incidents that require a formal investigation.
So, is the new umbrella policy better than the former stand-alone Title IX procedure?
“The only thing we changed, and I think this was actually an improvement, is that under Obama we could not process assaults through informal resolutions. They all had to go to formal investigations. But a lot of students don’t want a formal investigation, they would just be happy to have an informal resolution, even for an assault,” said Murphy-Geiss. “That’s actually quite a feminist thing, to allow the victim to say ‘this is what I want,’ because it felt very oppressive before, telling them ‘sorry we have to do that formal investigation’ and they’re like ‘well I’m not going to participate.’”
Nationally, Title IX is under attack. According to the New York Times, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is “preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct that would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, reduce liability for institutions of higher education and encourage schools to provide more support for victims.” Further, the proposals for the new rules “narrow the definition of sexual harassment” and would hold schools accountable “only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses” and would “establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints.” More daunting is the fact that “the Trump administration’s new rules will have the force of law and can go into force without an act of Congress, after a public comment period.”
But for now, Colorado College is working hard to protect victims of a wide array of forms of sexual harassment. Any students in need of the SARC’s support should report to the Wellness Resource Center, where Heather Horton is a confidential source, meaning she is available for consultation and won’t report your experience to the authorities. Or, the on-call SARC is available at (719) 602-0960.