Dear members of the Emerson community:
As you know, President Pelton announced the formation of the Presidential Working Group in early September and reiterated its mandate in his November 2019 State of the College report.
We have been meeting on a weekly basis and have brought our perspectives as staff, faculty, students and administrators with varying experience in Title IX to work collaboratively to address the President’s charge. We have been working diligently to examine the complexities of Title IX laws and regulations, as well as how federal and institutional guidelines shape our response to such incidents on the Emerson campus.
We are writing to provide a brief update to the community on the working group’s activities and progress below. While our work is underway, we encourage members of our community to utilize campus supports, services and resources if impacted by sexual misconduct.
· Our initial meetings, with experts in the Title IX field, focused on current laws and guidance, confidentiality and privacy guidelines. These experts offered valuable insight on Emerson’s policy and investigative procedure, and the ways in which it overlaps with, or diverges from, best practices at peer institutions.
· We took part in a mock case study that involved complaints of intimate partner violence and sexual assault on campus. This exercise supported the group’s understanding of the complex nature of Title IX cases, how privacy concerns can affect decision making, and that many individuals besides those mostly directly involved can be impacted and in need of support.
· More recently, we reviewed the results of group member interviews conducted by our partner consultants. Key takeaways include:
o concerns about interdepartmental communication based on differing understandings of “need to know” and the impact on a student’s experience with the Title IX process;
o the perception of the investigative procedure as dense and difficult to follow, particularly for someone in crisis; and
o understanding that the operationalization of the process could be strengthened to ensure better wrap-around support for involved students.
In addition, we identified trends in Title IX policies and processes including:
· models for providing advocacy and counseling services in Title IX cases;
· employee cross-training from different departments;
· approaches to informal resolution, both instead of and following formal Title IX investigations.
In the coming months, we will turn to a close examination and mapping of Emerson’s policy and investigative procedures relative to our current work, best practices, and federal Department of Education guidance. The working group will continue discussion of potential recommendations in the context of Emerson’s campus culture. Given the complexities of the issues, and the diversity that comprises the Emerson community, a complete consensus on all items may not be possible. However, we remain committed to inclusiveness and transparency and are united in our goal of strengthening the College’s response to Title IX related incidents amongst students.
John Craig Freeman
Jin Amber Yang