No immediate changes to come from Title IX working group

The working group assembled by President M. Lee Pelton to review the college’s Title IX procedures will not be making any concrete policy changes, according to a member of the committee.

Co-chair and Associate Professor of Visual and Media Arts Jan Roberts-Breslin said the group has not officially scheduled a meeting yet, but she expects that they will break down into subcommittees to examine specific issues.

Roberts-Breslin said they plan to report their findings and recommendations to Pelton but won’t create any new policies. The working group will report its findings and recommendations to him before the end of the spring term.

Pelton announced the working group comprised of students, faculty, and staff in an email to the community on Sept. 3. According to the email, the group will review the college’s procedures and policies around incidents of sexual misconduct, including the way administration communicates with the student body. It will also examine other college’s procedures to see how Emerson compares. 

“I’m hoping to see how we compare to other colleges and universities in terms of the success of our workings and our policies,” Roberts-Breslin said. “I’m hoping to be able to recommend some improvements that we can make to better serve the students and the full community.” 

Pelton said in an interview the group will decide when they meet, how often, and whether the meetings are private or public. 

In the email, Pelton wrote that the committee was assembled after a series of incidents that occurred during the closing weeks of the spring 2019 semester where 14 students were anonymously accused of sexual misconduct.

Pelton said the group is part of an ongoing review of the sexual harassment policy that began in 2014. He said he sees this group not as a solution, but rather as an effort for continuous improvement. 

The working group has been charged not only to review our current Title IX policies and procedures, but also to review several aspects of Title IX, such as the college support systems and programs, and the flow of information related to sexual misconduct between administrative offices,” he said in an interview.

Pelton said he consulted with senior administrative staff primarily and spoke to several students for recommendations on individuals that could participate in the group.

“Students primarily reached out to me with recommendations and, in some instances, I had conversations with students who were very interested and had been very engaged with the events that occurred in April and early May,” Pelton said.

Student Government Association President Raz Moayed was approached to work on the committee in July. She said in an interview that she is looking forward to fleshing out the issues on campus and giving students a space to talk about their experiences.

“It’s really scary because students don’t know where to go, who to go to [to talk about sexual misconduct on campus]” she said. “And now we have a student organization that’s all about this subject and we have a college committee that’s focused on our policies. I just really want to show the student body that there are different pockets of our school that [will support them].”

Moayed said she knows most of the faculty and staff on the committee and is enthusiastic about working with the people in the group.

“They’re experts in dialogue and experts in creating spaces to have these conversations, experts in policy and in higher education,” she said. “We will also have experts in this specific field that are working with us, so everyone’s strength is very calculated.”

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