Author: Juliet Suess
President Jonathan Veitch and other school administrators have agreed to relook at the Sexual Misconduct Policy and make changes after the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition’s (OSAC) demanded the administration make major adjustments to the policy.
The OSAC presented 12 changes to the administration, which were first sent to the Dean Barbara Avery and Dean Erica O’Neal Howard. The Deans accepted only three of the initial demands for various implementation reasons, according to Hailey Jures (junior), member of the OSAC.
After the rejections from the Deans, the OSAC met with President Veitch and Dean of the College Jorge Gonzalez. The goal of the meeting was to clarify the rejections and inform President Veitch of the need for the proposed changes.
Politics professor and founding member of the OSAC Caroline Heldman played an active role in the meeting with Veitch and enacting change in the Sexual Misconduct Policy. “[The] OSAC recently met with the President to provide statistics on the eight cases we know about from last year that were formally adjudicated,” she said. “The President seemed surprised by the data, and said he would conduct a full review of sexual assault cases in the last three years. He seems very dedicated to the issue, and thinks that the best way to move forward is to understand what the college has been doing in recent years.”
After the meeting, President Veitch accepted the changes to the policy but two need further research. Veitch would like to talk to people who have gone through the process before fully implementing the changes. By April 15, the OSAC plans to have a progress report on the changes and have set a deadline of May 1 for the implementation.
“Occidental’s sexual assault policy has been evolving over the past year — as it has at colleges nationwide — driven by the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter, our consulting with other schools as to best practices, and our own evaluation of policy and process. OSAC’s input included a number of good ideas. While there are still a couple of points where further discussion is necessary — specifically, how consent is defined and whether the Title IX coordinator position should once again become a faculty post — everyone at Oxy shares the same goal: creating a safe, caring, respectful environment,” Director of Communications Jim Tranquada said.
To show the solidarity between the administration, the OSAC and survivors of sexual assault, the OSAC held a day of celebration Nov. 13 where they walked from the fountain to Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center. But the day of celebration could have been a day to show the administration that the changes were badly needed had they not been agreed to by Veitch.
“The day of celebration was going to be a day of action, whether celebration or a sit-in: that was up to the administration,” OSAC member Audrey Logan (senior) said. She also added that if the May 1 deadline is not met, there may be a showing of civil disobedience to place an importance on these issues.
Heldman cheered the administration for their work on the changes and was glad to see progress being made.”We have reached agreement with the administration on changes we think need to happen right away, so this [was] a day to celebrate that agreement and progress on sexual assault issues,” she said.
President Veitch was glad to partake in the discussions. “We need to do a better job of opening up the process for review and keeping our campus community informed of any changes. OSAC was right to challenge us to do better,” he said.
The first change to be implemented will be a standing committee to make sure that the Policy is constantly up to speed with policies in the nation. The committee’s job will be to research other school’s policies and propose changes to make sure that Occidental continues to have the best and most fair policies.
OSAC has been consulting other policies to ensure that the proposed changes start the work of the committee. “We have also been actively consulting the policies and processes of schools in our comparison group, and gleaning information from the gold standard in the country — the University of New Hampshire,” Heldman said.
The need for the changes come after a year with eight sexual assault cases. A lot of the cases have ended in controversy within groups and have been brought to the attention of the OSAC. One member of the OSAC presented her case to Veitch at their meeting, and he was surprised at the details of the process she shared, according to Jures.
Jures adds that the college has not been putting the interests of students at the forefront of the policy changes. “The school puts liability over students’ safety,” she said.
With the new additions and changes to the policy, the OSAC feels that policy will be on the forefront of progress on sexual assault issues. “The sexual assault policy and process has improved significantly since I’ve been at Oxy, but based on the experiences of survivors who went through the process last year, it has a long way to go. OSAC is confident that, given President Veitch’s dedication to the issue, Oxy will become one of the leading colleges in the U.S. when it comes to the prevention and fair processing of sexual assault,” Heldman said.
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