Talk of policy change has dominated many faculty and administrative meetings this term. At the most recent Student Life Committee, President Teresa Amott suggested that the Grievance Panel be removed in place of a single attorney or investigator who would oversee the cases. This proposal would once again fall in line with Office of Civil Rights standards and recommendations. According to the OCR, 75 percent of liberal arts colleges with grievance panel structures like Knox’s intend to change their systems.
The same rationale that can be applied to the argument of removing students from the Grievance Panel can be applied to the removal of the Grievance Panel in its entirety.
Professors too are members of the Knox community who see students in a variety of situations. It is entirely unfair to expect a professor to completely distinguish between the student they know from around the campus, and the plaintiff or defendant in a sexual assault case. As educators, professors are asked to invest heavily in the personal relationships that fuel small schools. The objective stoicness necessary for Grievance Panel cases contrasts directly with a successful educator’s mentality.
While Grievance Panel members do receive training for their posts, there is still a distinct advantage in having arbitrators with an ingrained legal perspective. Faculty serving on the Grievance Panel pursued their livelihoods for a reason; they did not choose to become lawyers or judges.
Implementing a system in which an attorney oversees Title IX reports at Knox immediately provides an influx of legal expertise to these cases. Not only would this influx ensure a fair and objective hearing, it would also go a long way in allowing survivors to tell their stories freely, without fear of judgment from an elite of the Knox community.
Those involved in the case will have the comfort of knowing that the attorney that they are speaking to is highly unlikely to divulge any information to a Knox community member outside of the “need to know” circle. In other words, eliminating the Grievance Panel in place of an outside investigator or attorney adds a safeguard for privacy.
Just last week President Amott proposed the removal of student representatives from the Grievance Panel. This editorial board supported the decision on the basis of preserving the integrity of the role of the student at Knox College. In short, we said that students should not be split from their identity as students, especially regarding their part in the personal lives of their peers in respect to sexual assault cases. Given the intimateness of Knox’s campus, it is clear that faculty too should be removed from the Grievance Panel. By shifting to a singular, outside investigator, Knox would give the community the best possible chance to thrive in the wake of these devastating crimes.