Title IX Office Revamps Sexual Harassment & Misconduct Policy

Nat McCloud ’23, Associate News Editor

Recent updates in the Title IX office towards the Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy (SHMP) will offer more options for complainants and respondents because to “increase transparency” of the office, according to Title IX Director Kat Matic.

Changes to the policies were announced in an email by Matic to the greater Dickinson college community on Thursday, Oct. 17. “Our policy is designed to build a culture of sexual respect, prevent sexual and gender-based misconduct before it occurs, and respond equitably and promptly to reports of such misconduct,” Matic explained in the email and then listed changes to the SHMP.

One of the changes is an updated and expanded table of contents. The previous policy’s table of contents from 2018 had a limited scope of information. It will include more accessible resources for quicker navigation. The update also links each item on the table of contents to the page within the policy. Matic said “We wanted to make it easy to use for people. It’s helpful for faculty and staff who say, “I’m a mandated reporter, how do I do that?”” 

Matic expanded the section on equitable rights to include a list of all the rights. “We take care to do for one person what we do for another person. Most of the policy is the same procedure, but I found it could have used more explanations,” Matic said. This includes the right of both the Complainant and the Respondent to an advisor they choose, whether it be a friend, a professor they trust, an advocate from the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), or a lawyer.

The new policy increases options for voluntary resolution. It describes the ways that allegations can be cooperatively resolved without any formal hearing. Most allegations can be resolved voluntary resolutions. “I don’t think that the community knows this,” Matic said. Some of the options for voluntary resolutions include No Contact agreements, changes to work schedules or housing assignments, or agreement to undergo a training or educational assignment.

The new policy creates a “No Contest” process, where a respondent to a case could accept the allegations against them. Under the previous policy there was no way for a respondent to accept a formal allegation against them without going through a hearing process. The No Contest policy will help avoid any unnecessary formal hearings which can be taxing and emotional for the participants, according to Matic.

Some of the changes were done in compliance with new state regulations. But Matic said that was not her focus in the changes. “Are we going beyond compliance to help our community?” Matic said, “Each year I have a notebook of notes and each summer I look back and ask, “was this in the policy?”” If the section is not the policy, Matic looks to revise the policy. If the issue is in the policy, she looks to create a better policy or better resources to address the issue. 

Matic stressed that any changes to the policy were not in response to the Department of Education’s proposed changes. The changes were proposed in Fall of 2018 and are still under consideration, would require schools to hold live hearings and allow that the advisor to both the Complainant and the Respondent to cross examine the other party. Dickinson joined 23 other private, liberal arts colleges in writing to Secretary of Education to advocate against the proposed changes.