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Appeals process resolution passes CSA

On Monday, Jan. 15, the Carleton Student Association (CSA) passed a resolution calling for “the development and implementation of appeals process for Title IX resolution policies and procedures for faculty and staff.” The resolution’s authors argue that the College’s current procedure for Title IX adjudication for cases involving faculty and staff should be altered to include an appeals process.

Currently, the College’s procedures for a Title IX adjudication process involving faculty and staff include “one investigator, one adjudicator, and two advisors, all of whom could be faculty or staff as well,” according to Sarah Leong-Fern ’18, member of the Title IX Appeals Process Action Team. 

In an all-campus email, the Title IX Appeals Process Action Team, a group of students dedicated to agitating for this change, stated that currently in a Title IX resolution process “if you experience sexual harassment or assault from a staff or faculty member and you report it to the school, they will have an investigator look into it and then a single person will decide your fate,” the Action Team stated.

A student might seek an appeal “if they think that there were procedural errors that substantially impacted the result of the hearing, if relevant new information that was not available at the time of the hearing and would have substantially impacted the result of the hearing [becomes available], or if there were sanctions administered that either party believes were inconsistent with the severity of the offense,” said Marco Dow ’17, who was a CSA class representative and member of the Spring 2017 Title IX working group.

With the current policies, “the decision of the adjudicator is final and cannot be appealed,” according to Dow.

Petitioning of the College for an appeals process began Spring Term 2017, when a student in the Class of 2017 “was concerned about this issue and came to the working group late in the term and was interested in writing a resolution to create an appeals process,” said Dow.

In Spring 2017, the same student created a petition calling for an appeals process and received 631 signatures.

“Since it was late in the term, we decided to hold off on bringing [the resolution] before CSA that term, and instead come up with a draft and let the senators for the 2018-19 school year finalize and pass it,” said Dow.

Apoorva Handigol ’19, a member of the Action Team, stated that Dean Carolyn Livingston hoped to have an announcement regarding the issue by the end of winter term.

However, Handigol explained that to implement an appeals process, changes must be made to the College faculty handbook and policies regarding tenure.

“The resolution itself is really just to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t actually do much because Title IX is under the Dean of Students office, which can’t actually make these changes. Dean Livingston can put pressure on [faculty], but they can’t necessarily do anything about this, because faculty have the power,” Handigol said.

Laura Riehle-Merrill, Title IX coordinator, stated that she and Dean Livingston have been in contact with the Title IX Action Team, and conducted research on peer institutions’ appeals processes.

“At this meeting, we agreed to continue moving the discussion forward, including continuing to consider a F-S appeals process,” Riehle-Merrill said. “The group determined that, as a next step, we need information about possible specific models for the adjudication process. It may seem simple, yet adding an appeals process also impacts what the initial adjudication process would look like. Now we are working on that part. Once we have some options put together, we will both get feedback from the VP group and solicit wider input before any plan is finalized.”

The Action Team held a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to establish further plans, which include contacting professors to raise the issue and garner support among faculty.

“The goal of the resolution is to just get information to students that this appeals process doesn’t exist, and explain why it’s so important,” said Handigol.

Leong-Fern stated that “if you don’t have tactics and if you don’t have goals, you can’t change anything. We’re hoping that some progress is better than no progress.”

“I believe that the way the faculty-staff procedures are currently written are incomplete and poorly thought-out, and that having a single person making these decisions with no opportunity for an appeal is a mistake…and I truly hope the college remedies this as quickly as possible to prevent any further harm being done,” said Dow.

Dow added, “I don’t expect that to change any time soon. I hope to be proven wrong, and I hope students who have the emotional energy and the capacity continue to push for change on both an institutional and social level.”

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