University to Maintain Sexual Assault Disciplinary Procedures

Deputy Title IX coordinator discussed the Department of Education’s new guidelines for university sexual assault cases.

By Deepti Sailappan, Managing Editor ('19-'20)

Shea Wolfe, deputy Title IX coordinator for students, reaffirmed the University’s intent to maintain current disciplinary procedures for sexual assault at the Student Government (SG) Assembly meeting on Monday evening.

In a presentation on sexual assault prevention given to SG, Wolfe discussed the Department of Education’s new guidelines for university sexual assault cases, which revoke policies outlined in the Obama administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. Those policies required universities to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof in adjudicating sexual assault cases, meaning that cases are decided when it is more likely than not that the accused is guilty.

Wolfe stated that there are currently no plans to change University disciplinary procedures. She stated that current policies comply with the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act of 2015, which she said is very similar to what the “Dear Colleague” letter requires.

Wolfe also announced the Title IX office’s new website and marketing platform and elaborated on the success of the University’s online sexual misconduct prevention trainings for students, which are required by state law. She noted that 94.5 percent of second-years and new graduate students have completed Think About It, their required training program; 96.5 percent of third- and fourth-years and continuing graduate students have completed their program. Registration holds have been placed on the accounts of students who have not done their training.

Asked about the possibility of breaking students into small seminars for UMatter, an O-Week presentation on responses to sexual misconduct, Wolfe said that when the seminar format was used a few years ago, “It had mixed results…. Students were leading those small groups, and it was hard to make [information] consistent.” She added that this year’s UMatter session aimed to be interactive, with students submitting questions during the presentation.

Wolfe also stated that she can provide only “remedies, not restrictions” following cases of sexual assault occurring inside dormitories unless a formal report is filed. If a student disclosing a sexual assault case does not wish to pursue disciplinary action, for example, the Title IX office cannot remove the accused perpetrator from College Housing, she said.

SG held its regular assembly meeting after Wolfe’s presentation. SG president Calvin Cottrell announced that some SG funding will be used support diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. This includes the Monumental Women Project’s unveiling on November 28 of a bust in Reynolds Club honoring Dr. Georgiana Simpson (A.B. 1911, A.M.’20, Ph.D ’21), the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States.