By Cecilia Cress and Olivia Montes
As the spring semester continues, Washington College is also updating campus policies, particularly those concerning Title IX.
According to a campus-wide email from Interim Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Greg Krikorian on Feb. 25, the College updated their Title IX policies regarding sexual discrimination and harassment within the student handbook.
The revised policy — developed by both the College and the multidisciplinary campus support service, Grand River Solutions, to be consistent with the U.S. Department of Education guidelines provided in 2020 — “prohibits all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination,” including dating and domestic violence, hostile environments, sexual assault, and stalking, according to the email.
“We wanted to make sure that our policy adhered to all of [these changes]…[and] it’s a subsequent step,” Krikorian said.
According to the email, the policy also details the importance and role of consent — or the “knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision of all parties” — in all forms of sexual contact. In addition to emphasizing how consent given prior or during any sexual activity “does not necessarily constitute consent to any other sexual act,” the policy also outlines how affirmed consent between involved individuals is required and can be reversed at any time; how it “cannot be given when it is the result of any coercion, intimidation, force, or threat of harm,” and the impact of incapacitation or intoxication upon consent.
The updated policy also includes more options for reporting; available support departments and systems both on and off campus; details concerning the reporting and investigation processes as well as how, with “preponderance of information as the burden of proof, lawyers/and or advisors are permitted to assist students during the adjudication process, to include questioning of the parties, witnesses, etc.”
In addition to these changes, as of Feb. 25, according to the email, it was announced that over 300 WC faculty and staff members completed online or in-person Title IX training. Supplementary “training for all faculty and staff who are part of the adjudication of Title IX and sexual harassment and discrimination cases” was completed in the fall.
According to Krikorian, it is also crucial for the WC community, particularly the student body, to understand the importance of bystander intervention in Title IX violations.
“If we see one of our friends acting poorly, and treating someone in a way that could be a violation of this policy, removing them before something progresses to a really negative point, it is a wonderful situation that helps both parties,” Krikorian said.
Alongside these changes, the student-led Peer Sexual Misconduct Advocacy and Response Team plans to continue educating and informing the WC community of the updated Title IX policy and other related subjects, including sexual misconduct and violence, normalizing conversations regarding safe sex, and providing additional resources and spaces for LGBTQIA+ students, according to Peer SMART advocate junior Jonah Nicholson.
“We’re also trying to reintroduce ourselves to the community so that people know who the Peer SMART advocates are,” Nicholson said. “If we’re able to [continue to] educate the student populace here about how to properly go about having these conversations, [including] bystander intervention, it really does help.”
At the time of print, the Peer SMART team met with Krikorian to discuss further plans regarding both education initiatives and other plans for the remainder of the semester, including bringing back the 24-hour hotline phone and the designated safe space in the Casey Academic Center, according to Nicholson.
According to Krikorian, all College students, staff, and faculty members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the policy in the Student Handbook. Any additional questions or concerns regarding these policy changes can also be directed to Krikorian.
By continuing to notify the WC community of these and other changes related to the campus wide Title IX policy, Krikorian said the College can be better prepared to protect and defend all individuals from discrimination and/or harassment.
“[This is] about providing resources for students in these situations,” Krikorian said. “These are highly complex, often having emotional situations, and we’re dealing with people’s lives…[and] really the basis of this policy is to make sure we’re fundamentally fair, how we provide resources to all the parties involved, how we make decisions about what has happened based on our policies.”