University Plans to Conduct Title IX Assessment With Victim Rights Law Center

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This morning at around 9:15, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias sent out a campus-wide email, announcing that the University will be conducting a Title IX policy review this semester in partnership with the Victim Rights Law Center. Three representatives from VRLC – Lindy Aldrich, Amanda Walsh, and Candi N. Smiley – will be on campus February 8-9 to host panel discussions and Q&As with faculty members, class deans, and student representatives (you can view bios of the representatives and a full schedule of the panels here). A full report is expected to be completed and made publicly available by late March or early April.

The news follows several months of high-profile controversy surrounding Scott Backer, the former Associate Dean of Students, whose history as a sexual predator was only made public due to an investigative report by the Boston Globe. Last semester was marked by multiple student protests over how Wesleyan handles sexual assault cases and faculty accountability; at an open forum, students expressed their wish for Farias and President Michael Roth to be removed from office. A number of faculty members expressed their own disappointment at the University’s Title IX policy by sending an open letter to the Argus, demanding that faculty sexual harassment cases required independent review by an outside party.

Read Farias’ full email and more information on the VRLC after the jump:

According to their website, the Victim Rights Law Center is “the first law center in the nation dedicated solely to serving the legal needs of sexual assault victims.” Founded in 2000 as a project within a rape crisis center, and launched as a separate 501(c)(3) in 2003, VRLC both provides legal representation to sexual assault survivors and advocates for better policy related to Title IX and sexual assault cases. They are based in Massachusetts and have offices in Oregon and Washington.

Here is the email in full:

Dear campus community,

Welcome back! I hope that you had a relaxing break. I’d like to update you on upcoming events and opportunities for dialogue regarding Title IX. Our Title IX policies, practices, and procedures undergo continuous review based on changes in federal guidance, new research, and listening to those individuals who experience this difficult process.

This semester we have invited the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) to campus in order to conduct an assessment of where we stand on Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act in relation to our peers. VRLC is a non-profit organization selected through the input of Wesleyan’s Title IX Policy Committee, Title IX Student Advisory Committee, and members of the WSA. We are asking them to provide us with the most effective practices currently being used to investigate, adjudicate, educate, and support survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking.

The VRLC external reviewers will be on campus Feb 8 and 9. There will be ample opportunities for your voice to be heard. Please visit our website for details on times, dates, and locations. VRLC are charged with gathering information about the strengths and weaknesses of Wesleyan’s response to reports of sexual and gender-based misconduct, particularly:
· the clarity of resources for students, faculty, and staff;
· the accessibility of the process to all students, faculty, and staff, including underrepresented minorities, first-gen, low-income, and LGBTQ populations;
· the collaboration between the Title IX Office and other first responders.

They will make recommendations regarding Wesleyan’s ongoing efforts to provide a supportive and equitable environment for all community members. A report is expected in late March/early April, and it will be made available to the campus community. The report will also serve as a basis for further evolution in how Title IX is administered on campus, the fairness of the investigation and adjudication processes for all parties, and how survivors are supported at Wesleyan. I ask your continued cooperation and engagement in the upcoming process. A detailed schedule, including bios on the visitation team, will be posted on the equity website. If you have cause for concern or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

With gratitude,
Antonio Farias
VP for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX and Sec. 504 Officer

Further reading: