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New case challenges sexual assault policy

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In light of recent federal regulation changes, Carleton rewrote its sexual misconduct policy and revealed its new policy at a forum sponsored by CAASHA and the Title IX lead team Wednesday evening.

The new policy, which clearly explains prohibited behaviors is divided into three distinct parts: sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexually inappropriate behaviors. The new policy has an umbrella policy of prohibited sexual misconduct with subsection explaining and defining each of the clearly prohibited types of behavior. The policy is a place for the College to put into writing what is not permitted in the community, but does not include specific procedures and consequences for specific circumstances.

Carleton made the changes to comply with a new federal law, the Violence Against Women Act. The Act includes the Campus saVE Act, a part of the Clery Act, an act dealing with security on campus, and was reinstated with new provisions last March.

The old policy prohibited broader categories of behavior, such as sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexually inap- propriate behavior. “Under this Campus saVE Act we have to now also prohibit, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking specifically,” Mary Dunnewold, head Title IX investigator for the College, said. If the policy added three new definitions in the current structure, Dunnewold said “that was just going to get unmanageable.”

According to Dunnewold, the Campus saVE Act requires schools to specifically ban be- haviors currently covered, but not specifcally named in the Carleton policies.

Dunnewold wanted to be clear. “We would have acted on those kind of behaviors under the sexual assault policy or under the sexual harassment policy depending on what the behavior looked like.”

She explained that the policy is not getting “many substantive changes other than adding these behaviors, but the structure looks very different.” The new policy is much clearer and organized into one policy instead of several different ones.

The new policy will also include a few other changes: the removal of all gendered language, the inclusion of the philosophy statement as part of the policy and a clearer definition of the community’s mandated reporter.

These changes are things that Dunnewold describes as having “always been true, but haven’t been written down.”

Furtermore, Dunnewold pointed out that the policy is expansive. “We have some things in there that the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t even require us to have in there, for instance sexual exploitation.”

Will Sheffer ’15, who works in the GSC as a gender and sexuality center associate and helped draft the changes to the sexual misconduct policy, said “I think Carleton has a very strong policy compared to people I’ve talked to at other schools.”

He continued, “I am very much in favor of the changes to the policy. It’s a much more streamlined document, and I think will be very good at its purpose, which is to be the first kind of response that a person who is thinking about filing a complaint reads through and sees. The breakdown of what constitutes what should be very helpful.”

Likewise, Dunnewold said, “I think the policy will be much clearer, much easier for everyone on campus to navigate to find the definitions, to understand what it actually prohibits and addresses.”

Although Sheffer and Dunnewold both said they are happy with the new policies, “the details of how people will use the process” may be weak, according to Sheffer.

“I’m actually pretty confident in the policy. It’s the procedures I would like to see change. My dream procedure process, I don’t know if it will ever be put into place at Carleton,” he said.

He said he’d like to see a system based more on one investigator who looks into all the claims and then after deliberating with the community on sexual misconduct, makes a decision.

“The procedure process is very different from the policy,” Sheffer said. “I am in favor of policy that isn’t trial based. I am more for a system where there would be no trial involved. I think that trials are traumatizing for anyone.”

He explains the issues of a trial-based system including the issue of the trial itself, “people asking you questions is always going to be really difficult and, yes, the community board of sexual misconduct goes through intensive training, but we all have personal biases that we are unlearning daily and people go through years and years of training and still could potentially ask a triggering or traumatizing question to someone.”

Lindsey Myrick ’15, a member of CAASHA, publically wrote about her strongly unhappy feelings with the College’s current sexual misconduct procedure. Her personal account is now a petition on

Her account talks about filling out a sexual misconduct report last term and going through the process of pressing charges against her assailant.

She was deeply unhappy with how the procedures played out citing the college’s inadequate punitive measures and the inequity of lawyers in the procedures.

Myrick said that although the College “provided me with a wonderful and competent adviser, we didn’t have the time or legal expertise to match the respondent’s hired lawyer’s experience in the criminal justice system”, this “inequitable use of lawyers” made the process more stressful and complicated than Myrick felt it should be.

Myrick describe the process as being “eight weeks of hell” where the respondent hired a fully trained lawyer from Harvard Law School and “made the entire term feel like a nightmare.”

Finally, the respondent was found guilty and “asked to write a reflection paper on what he learned about consent”and“given a disciplinary status of censure and warning,” according to Myrick.

She said, “Though Carleton takes a punitive approach in other forms of misconduct, such as academic, sexual violence is considered a ‘learning opportunity.’

“I’m not opposed to educational or reparative justice when done correctly, but Carleton has no real way of facilitating this ‘learning opportunity.’”

To Myrick the charges did not feel useful when her assailant “had no interest in learning about consensual sex.”

Myrick said, “Carleton needs to be prepared for socioeconomic difference and should be willing to finance legal help for survivors.

“Survivors won’t put themselves through the pain of a misconduct process if cases like mine show that there is no hope for justice.”

Carleton is holding a forum on the complaint process and procedure Wednesday, February 11 at 7pm in the alumni guest house meeting room for all those who would like to learn more and get involved.

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