CWRU announces interim policy on sexual misconduct

Case Western Reserve has adopted an interim policy on sexual misconduct that responds to direction the United States Department of Education has issued to all academic institutions that receive federal funds. The interim policy became effective Saturday, Aug. 17, and will remain in force until a final policy is approved later this academic year.

“Every member of our community must be treated with dignity and respect,” said Marilyn Sanders Mobley, vice president of the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity. “This policy reiterates that sexual misconduct not only is a violation of the institution’s values, but also its rules and federal law.”

The policy revisions address the government’s guidance to academic institutions regarding Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender-related discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds.

Along with other colleges and universities around the country, Case Western Reserve assessed its policies and practices after receiving the education department’s communication. Per federal direction, the interim policy combines the university’s existing sexual assault and sexual harassment policies into one document. It also expands definitions of sexual misconduct violations and updates details of the hearing and appeals process.

As the university’s designated Title IX coordinator, Mobley oversees the process for addressing reported violations of the statutes that govern such misconduct and co-authored the revised policy along with representatives of student affairs and the general counsel’s office. University officials will present the updates to campus organizations in the coming months and seek suggestions for improvement and clarification. Some elements of the policy will be open to revision, while others must remain unchanged because of federal criteria and guidelines.

“We look forward to making the community aware of these changes and receiving input on ways to make the document clearer and more effective,” said Louis W. Stark, the university’s vice president for student affairs. “These conversations represent an opportunity to remind individuals what behavior constitutes misconduct, and also to provide new details regarding the reporting obligations that exist for those who become aware of such misconduct.”

As with the existing policies, the interim policy states that someone who becomes aware of misconduct must report it to the appropriate authorities. Under the updates, this responsibility applies whether the individual personally experienced or witnessed an incident or learned of it from someone else. The university, rather than the individual, bears responsibility for determining whether the event meets the definition of sexual misconduct, whether a violation of the policy occurred, and what actions are necessary to address any policy violation. The individual simply is obligated to report.

New students will be briefed on the interim policy as part of orientation this week. Stark will review the document with student groups such as the Undergraduate Student Government, Graduate Student Senate and others. Organizations such as the Faculty Senate and Staff Advisory Council also will receive presentations.

The new interim policy can be downloaded as a PDF, and the letter the federal government sent that prompted the development of the new interim policy can be downloaded online.