You are on page 1of 7

Dissenting Voices: Statement of Purpose and Goals

Dissenting Voices is a student-driven campaign to end campus sexual violence. We are an

activist group committed to educating students about their civil right to education free from
sexual violence and harassment, while also pushing policy and legislative change at the college
level for better administrative enforcement of that same right. Dissenting Voices aims to provide
a checks and balance system between the law on the books, the colleges administration of those
laws, and survivors on the ground. To that end, we work to educate our fellow students about
their rights and empower them to take action for safety and equality on campus; we are
committed to bringing students voices, experiences, and concerns to the administration in order
to implement better, more sustained practices that enforce Title IX, the Jeanne Clery Act, and the
Dear Colleague Letter. Our first priority is not to the colleges brand but the best practices for
prevention and, when that fails, reducing survivor trauma to the best of our ability. We have seen
and personally experienced the inconsistent and erratic compliance of the administration with
Title IX, like most schools all over this country. We take the call of SGAs recent Its on us
campaignone mandated by the U.S. Governmentquite seriously. Indeed, it sparked the
formation of our group.
As dedicated students at Grinnell, we have tried for several years to work within the terms of
civil discourse and self-governance to address our concerns about the Colleges Title IX
policies and enforcement. Many of us have been on relevant committees, met with
administrators, and written detailed opinion pieces for student publications that provide
suggestions for improvement. Yet, we have seen little improvement in the experiences of rape
survivors on Grinnells campus. For this reason, we want to provide students with accurate
information about sexual violence on-campus, and work as a watchdog group to ensure that the
College fulfills its legal obligation to protect survivors by complying with Title IX, the Jeanne
Clery Act, and the Dear Colleague Letter.
These goals are shaped by policy guidelines currently forwarded by student activist groups
around the country. For further information, please see the policy guidelines set out by Know
Your Title Ix
Dissenting Voices is committed to promoting awareness and student safety on-campus. Like
many other campus groups across the nation, we believe that continued activism is needed to end
rape on-campus: Our goals are simple: we ask the College to
comply with federal law, like every other institution in the country that receives federal funding,
and in so doing, protect survivors of sexual assault, rape, and sodomy, terms used in and
stipulated by the Jeanne Clery Act. We simply request that the administration take immediate
steps to improve its Title IX and related federal law compliance.
We ask that by February 2nd, 2015, the College makes all outcomes of sexual misconduct public
knowledge, as per the Clery Act, especially those that constitute crimes that the college may not
pursue as criminal proceedings but nonetheless report according to the Clery Act. We believe
that complying with the Jeanne Clery Act, in this way, will be a strong deterrent to future sexual
assault, if students and their parents understand the outcomes of such actions. We believe
complying with federal policy about clearly communicating outcomes will impel a college-wide
dialogue about the benefits and shortcomings of punitive vs. educational sanctions.

We logically ask that students found responsible for sexual misconduct who do remain on
campus have strident sanctions and not have paid positions on campus. To that end, we ask that
by February 2nd, 2015, the administration remove any students found responsible for sexual
misconduct from positions directly responsible for student safety. It is reasonable to expect that
students in even voted in or appointed positions by student government must pass a background
check provided by the Dean of Students. We are not asking for you to out these students but
simply provide necessary oversight in such cases, blocking appointments of students who have
made serious violations of policy such as Title IX. This is in line with the most basic issues of
accommodation for survivors, since survivors should be equally allowed to attend college events
and access safety resources on-campus without feeling intimidated by their assailants. By such
appointments, the college rewards assailants and makes survivors feel unsafe on the campus,
very likely prolonging the trauma of the assault.
While these are specific aims for the college, due to the immediacy of issues currently impacting
survivors now, on the ground, we would also like to share with you our larger aims that align
with the broader concerns of students nationally (
We hope you will take the time to follow the above link and read the goals that we will continue
to pursue. We ask you to work with us in our efforts to make our campus safe for all students to
have the best experience at Grinnell. We want to ensure that we can answer in the affirmative
that Grinnell College meets and surpasses good campus policies concerning sexual violence as
detailed in the Know Your Title IX Campus Policy Checklist
Please find below a detailed list of our proposed goals and aims for Grinnell to be in full
compliance with Title IX law. We have identified three major areas for improvement:
preventative and safety measures; policies and procedures for handling sexual misconduct cases;
and outcomes for sexual misconduct cases.
Preventative and Safety Measures
The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter mandates that schools should take proactive measures to
prevent sexual harassment and violence...and implement preventive education program and make
victim resources, including comprehensive victim services, available. To fully comply with this
mandate and ensure student safety on-campus, we ask that the College:

Review, expand, and clarify its definition of consent as affirmative verbal consent to
sexual activity;

Establish a Womens Center on-campus. This center would serve as a safe space for rape
survivors. It could also centralize Title IX resources, and possibly host pre-existing
campus services such as SHIC. The College has established safe spaces for LGBTQ
students and students of color. We feel that the same protection should be afforded to
women, particularly given Grinnells high rates of sexual violence. Many of our peer
institutions have womens centers, such as Carleton College, Vassar College, Pomona
College, Swarthmore College, and Bowdoin College.

Place equal, if not more, emphasis on sexual misconduct policy than academic
dishonesty. For example, there is a detailed handbook about academic dishonesty that
students are required to read and sign in Tutorial. Grinnell should provide a similarly
detailed handbook about sexual consent, sexual assault, and related policies. Students
should have an opportunity to read these policies, ask clarifying questions, and sign a
statement that affirms their commitment to upholding them by the end of the first
semester. This would have the added benefit of including faculty in the conversation and
commitment to the Federal laws that apply to the college.

Create a Sexual Assault Support Team (SAST). This team would consist of members of
faculty and staff who are trained to assist, counsel, and support students who have
experienced sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence. Students going through these
difficult and traumatic experiences should have a network of adult support and
representation. Macalester College provides an excellent model of sexual assault
response that Grinnell should carefully examine:

Provide ongoing preventative education about sexual assault that recognizes the variable
circumstances that contribute to sexual violence, including but not limited to sexism,
domestic violence, and dating violence, all of which are often hard if not impossible for
an active-bystander to detect and stop. Nearly 60 percent of sexual assaults occur in the
victims own residences, and an additional 31 percent occur in other living quartersall
behind closed doors. And studies have shown that bystanders are much less likely to act
if the people know each other, which makes up the vast majority of sexual assaults. We
recommend providing anti-sexist training and workshops specifically and explicitly
teaching students not to assault, in addition to active-bystander training. Furthermore,
Real Men should be renamed to more explicitly acknowledge sexism and sexual
violence. Such examples of male anti-rape organizations on college campuses include
Harvard Men Against Rape and Northwestern Universitys Men Against Rape and
Sexual Assault.

Offer regular self-defense courses that provide all interested students with the tools to
protect themselves from sexual assault. Physical self-defense trainings have been shown
to significantly increase self-protective behaviors and active resistance strategies in
women, and these strategies have been shown to reduce the risk of sexual assault by more
than 80 percent compared to non-resistance (Gidycz et al. 2006; National Institute of
Justice). Self-defense trainings avoid institutionalizing the disempowering narrative that
women must be saved by others (active bystanders, namely, men) when offered in
conjunction with active bystander training. Moreover, studies have shown that even when
attacks have happened, a previous history of self-defense training lessens PTSD.

Policies and Procedures for Handling Sexual Misconduct Cases

The Dear Colleague Letter encourages educational institutions to continually review the efficacy
of their sexual assault policies and procedures. Developing streamlined, consistent, and
transparent policies helps reduce the trauma of disciplinary hearings for all parties involved.

While Grinnell has begun to make changes to its procedures for responding to sexual misconduct
cases, we believe these procedures can be improved in a number of ways. Specifically, we ask
the College to:

Provide adequate mental health resources at SHACS. Mental health services are a crucial
part of victim/survivors support network, whether or not they choose to make
allegations. The school is legally mandated to provide this support under Title II of the
Higher Education Amendments of 1972, and inadequate support is a form of
discrimination by the College that limits a survivors ability to fully participate in their
academic experience while enrolled at the College. Survivors often deal with sustained
mental health issues; the school is required to provide mental health support, particularly
if the assailant is given educational sanctions and allowed to remain on campus, exposing
survivors to continued trauma.

Hire a permanent Title IX coordinator with appropriate qualifications and relevant

experience for the position. These qualifications may include professional degrees in law,
womens and gender studies, social work, and/or relevant experience working with rape
survivors. These credentials are sufficient to cover the standard indicated in the 2011
Dear Colleague Letter (p.12). This position should have some level of autonomy from the
Presidents office, much like that of our neighboring institution: RVAP at the University
of Iowa. Indeed, we ask that the college publicize the various resources available in the
state, so that students feel they have somewhere to turn outside the college. Public access
to legal aide, such as that provided by Iowa CASA is especially needed during the
hearing process.

Designate a clear time frame for the handling of sexual misconduct cases. DCL indicates
that Colleges should have a designated time frame for each major stage of the complaint
process, and give the complainant and alleged perpetrator periodic updates as to the status
of the investigation. The College can more effectively meet this requirement by giving
both parties involved an expected timeline of events for the collection of evidence and
testimony, the writing of the report, and the date of the hearing during the initial stage of
the investigation. If the timeline needs to be adjusted, both parties should be notified as
soon as possible to avoid constituting discrimination by the College. Both parties should
be encouraged to have comparable representation and advocacy throughout the process.

Address all conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. For example, the administrator
who oversees the complaint process (and handles appeals) is also in charge of security.
Thus, we believe that any appeal based on the grounds that security has mishandled an
investigation cannot be impartially evaluated. We also identify a conflict of interest with
the Interim Title IX Coordinator: her roles on-campus include Vice President for
Strategic Planning and Special Assistant to the President. Residence Life Coordinators
may also have a conflict of interest in cases involving Student Advisors.

Clarify what evidence is considered permissible and relevant for inclusion in reports and
hearings. Though cases vary, no proceeding should include unnecessary evidence that in
any way implies the act of sexual violence was the victims fault. Evidence that may
perpetuate victim-blaming includes but is not limited to:


Evidence concerning prior relationship of the two parties involved that is not
directly and clearly related to the incident being alleged, including discussion of
any romantic or sexual history between the two parties that is not directly relevant
to the incident being alleged;
Evidence and questions during the hearing concerning what the complainant was
wearing, or the complainants sexual history;
Any communication between the complainant and alleged perpetrator that is not
directly related to the incident being alleged.

Provide the educational, emotional, and protective accommodations guaranteed to

victims by the Campus SaVE Act. As soon as a student makes an allegation of sexual
assault, the College is obligated to provide them with appropriate resources, and take
measures to ensure their continued emotional and physical safety during the entire
investigation process (clarified in question A-5 of the Questions & Answers on Title IX
and Sexual Violence document from the Department of Education). Even if the victim
does not file a formal complaint, the Campus SaVE Act mandates that the College
comply with the victims requests for academic and housing accommodations that
minimize the hostility of their living and working environment. Victims should be
provided with written notification of these rights upon reporting instances of sexual
misconduct. These accommodations should be upheld for the duration of time both
survivor and assailant remain on campus. Accommodations and sanctions do not expire
until graduation of one or the other student involved.

Prioritize the safety of the complainant (and the campus community at large) by placing
students in paid leadership positions on-campus on probation if they are currently under
investigation for sexual misconduct. As a reminder, federal law requires that the College
protect the complainant and ensure his or her safety as necessary, taking interim steps
before the final outcome of any investigation. (see the Questions & Answers on Title IX
and Sexual Violence document).

Make it clear and explicit that students going through sexual misconduct cases are well
within their legal rights to communicate with their parents, attorney, or other counsel
before their hearing. In order to provide the time to communicate with these resources,
provide a longer appeal timeline.

Review their policies for evidence preservation after disciplinary proceedings have
concluded. For example, audio records and written transcripts of College Board Hearings
must be accessible for the survivor after the case has been resolved, should they want to
pursue legal action. The College should not destroy any evidence, whether audio, visual,
or written, for at least five years following the case.

Pursue close collaboration with state and nationwide legal advocacy programs to provide
students with the best resources and counseling services possible in sexual misconduct
cases. For example, Crisis Intervention Services, the Rape Victims Advocacy Program
(RVAP) and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (Iowa CASA) both offer grant
money for free legal counseling. Victims should be made aware of these resources in

addition to those on campus, such as Grinnell Advocates. Pamphlets for these resources
should be provided to students and made readily available on the college website.

Offer students who have gone through the College Hearing Board process opportunities
to provide anonymous feedback about their experiences. For example, the College could
create an optional survey about the Hearing Board process, similar to the Campus
Climate surveys. This would establish patterns of complaints in sexual misconduct cases
that the College could more quickly acknowledge and resolve.

Respect and acknowledge student requests for information in writing. Students should
also be permitted to record their meetings with administrators and Security officers.
Communicating with students verbally and shying away from documentable forms of
communication should not be an acceptable alternative to Title IX transparency and

Provide all members of the College Hearing Board with yearly training consistent with
the recommendations made by the Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual
Violence document written by the Office of Civil Rights. To increase transparency, the
College should notify all students of these training proceedings, and specify which
members of the campus community serve on CHB. This is consistent with the 2013
revisions to the Clery Act. Reed College, for instance, has a page on their website that
lists all current members of their Sexual Misconduct Board. All members of the Board
should be reviewed annually by the Title IX Office.

Provide College Hearing Board members and administrators responsible for determining
educational outcomes for perpetrators of sexual violence with extensive training
regarding the aftermath of sexual trauma for victims. This will help establish more
reasonable and equitable outcomes that reflect the lasting psychic effects such trauma has
on student survivors. Letters of apology, book reports, community service, and/or
meetings with the Dean of Students do not reflect the severity of sexual violence, and are
upsetting to many survivors and their families. If perpetrators are required to pass select
courses, and subsequently fail those courses, they should be immediately suspended. Acts
of retaliation by perpetrators found at fault need immediate and severe actions, including
expulsion, as this clearly demonstrates the failure of educational measures to have their
desired effect and outcome.

Outcomes for Sexual Misconduct Cases

The college policy states: "the determination of educational outcomes is based upon a number of
factors, including but not limited to: the severity of the incident; the impact on the Complainant;
any ongoing risk to either the Complainant or the community posed by Respondent; the impact
of the violation on the community, its members, or its property; any previous conduct violations;
and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
We request that the College take this policy to its logical conclusion by pursuing outcomes and
sanctions for perpetrators of sexual misconduct that reflect the severity of such acts. The
outcome of every case should demonstrate that the Grinnell administration values the safety of
survivors and the campus community on the whole. Most studies reflect that sexual assault is

perpetrated by those likely to repeat such behavior. For the safety of the campus, evidence of
serial behavior needs to be taken very seriously, and requires punitive measures including
To reflect the Colleges commitment to creating a safe and equitable campus community that
takes seriously acts of sexual violence, we ask that students found responsible for sexual
misconduct who

are found to pose a continued threat to the victim(s);

are found to pose a continued threat to the community;
and/or whose presence on campus prevents the survivor from accessing the full benefits
of a College education as outlined by Title IX law

should, at minimum, be given outcomes that remove them from campus for the entire duration of
the survivors attendance at Grinnell. Perpetrators deemed to pose a threat to the community,
such as serial offenders, should be expelled.
As a reminder, the Office of Civil Rights states: If alleged conduct is sufficiently serious to
limit or deny a students ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program (creates
a hostile environment), and the school, upon notice, fails to take prompt and effective steps
reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its
recurrence, and as appropriate, remedy its effects, then the school violates the students rights
under Title IX. Those found responsible for sexual misconduct need to be removed from
campus positions in which they will be working with survivors. Classroom accommodations
must be made for the entirety of time both survivor and perpetrator remain on campus. No
survivor should be asked to attend class with her/his assailant.
Furthermore, the Department of Education has clarified that one single instance of sexual
violence is sufficient to qualify as creating a hostile educational environment (DCL 2011).
Allowing students found responsible for sexual misconduct to remain on-campus with their
victims creates a hostile educational environment for survivors, and violates Title IX law.
To remain consistent with these laws, we ask that students found responsible for sexual
misconduct be barred from paid campus positions of authority where they are responsible for the
safety of other students. This trivializes the experiences of student survivors and subjects them to
a hostile environment, since the positions which are intended to provide safety instead expose
them to trauma, and undercut their faith in the systems ability to protect and care for them.