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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton’s serious about sexual assault

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I have been an associate dean of students at Carleton since January 2009. During spring term 2009, students demanded that the College review the processes regarding sexual misconduct complaints, which had not been reviewed since 2001. College leadership developed a review team to make recommendations for a new process. I was asked to chair the initiative, along with my staff colleagues Amy Sillanpa, Jean Sherwin, faculty Bill North and Angela Curran and students Julia Walther ‘10, Heather Campbell ‘10 and Michael Stevens ‘10. Together we researched and evaluated our institution and many other colleges and universities to ultimately develop the right process for our campus, given the hurt that so many of our students had endured over the years.

At the close of the 2009-10 school year, the review team made recommendations to College Council that were driven by the values of a clear process with support, transparency, and a strong emphasis on preventative education. Specifically, we developed the community concern form, the Community Board on Sexual Misconduct (to move away from a single adjudicator model), Sexual Misconduct Support Advisers (to give all student participants a support person), Healthy Communities and Relationships (programs that address the nurturing of healthy relationships), and a dedicated website for sexual misconduct support and response. The implementation of these changes was led by the Dean of Students Office and the consultant on sexual misconduct, along with a collaborative team of colleagues representing the division of student life, along with a 5th year intern who was hired for the year to kick-start the new information and processes.

The community concern form is probably one of the most impactful changes that came from the review. We heard from students that the College needed to “do something” about the troubling behavior that students were seeing or experiencing, that “everyone” knew was happening. The concern form gave students a venue to share concerning behavior and to ask for help, without necessarily going through a complaint process that would result in a hearing. Since the fall of 2010 when the community concern form came online through fall term 2014, there have been nearly 525 community concern forms filed.

Of those submitted, almost 250 of them were sexual in nature. As a college, we have been able to address incidents that are sexual in nature outside of the complaint process, as a victim wants, and we have been able to stop behavior, keep individual students feeling safe and in control of the process, while also working to ensure our campus is safe. This has been tremendous to be a part of this movement because I have worked with many of these students directly and have seen many good things come from these concern forms. However, I know we can do even better!

Over the course of the years since the new changes started in fall 2010, the implementation team has morphed to the Title IX Lead Team, and issues of sexual misconduct have been showcased more prominently nationwide due to federal regulations, guidance and legislation changes, most specifically communicated through the Office of Civil Rights, and these changes have been funneled to the lead team. Carleton is taking matters of sexual misconduct very seriously, and continues to make it a priority by not only complying with federal laws and guidance, but by continuing to address the needs of students on this very difficult issue with care, support, learning and integrity at the heart of our work. The review of our policy and process, of which we have been doing over the last year is very important work, and we welcome all who want to be a part of the positive changes moving forward.

Ms. Thornton is associate dean of the college.

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