Students who attended Student Senate’s open forum on the Grievance Panel Tuesday night had a wide range of views on how the college should proceed with its handling of cases of sexual assault and misconduct.
“Everyone was saying something completely different,” senior and Student Senate President Hiba Ahmed said.
Students sat at six tables and participated in small group discussions on how the college should move forward with the Grievance Panel. Approximately 13 students outside of Student Senate attended the event, and members of Senate sat at each table to take notes on the discussion. Members of the administration, including President Teresa Amott and Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader, were also in attendance to answer questions, though they did not participate in the discussions.
This year, Amott and the Title IX team have discussed the possibility of removing students from the Grievance Panel but continuing to hold it with faculty and staff, or dissolving the panel completely and moving to an Investigative Model where cases would be examined by Title IX Investigators.
Junior Senator Shannon Kline said that her group was in favor of moving to an Investigative Model.
“After we had two survivors talk, we came to the agreement that an investigative model would probably be better,” Kline said. “Knox is just so tiny that no matter what you’re going to see these people around. We’ve got so few students, and then we’ve got even fewer staff members.”
Kline also noted that having an Investigative Model could accelerate the process of resolving cases, as that would be the sole focus of the investigator.
“If someone was just dedicated to strictly taking care of the Grievance Panel, it would be a much expedited process. It wouldn’t take as long, because that’s their job. They wouldn’t have to worry about grading papers at the end of the day,” Kline said.
Other groups were in favor of maintaining the Grievance Panel. Junior Maddie Dana said that her group feared that an investigator would not approach the case with the same level of compassion that students and faculty members would.
“In terms of bringing in an investigator, everyone was opposed to it mainly because they fear that the investigator would not be emotionally invested enough and give them that comfort that is wanted,” Dana said.
Senior Erik Stephenson said that his group’s proposal to the college was that they combine the two methods and have a professional investigator sit on the Grievance Panel and lead the investigation. He said that an investigator would be a non-biased party who could offer their expertise to other members of the Grievance Panel.
Stephenson explained that he thinks the college should keep students on the panel because they offer a level of familiarity with the college that others may not have.
“It brings about specific knowledge that faculty may not have so they can contextualize information, so like faculty may not know how exactly parties work or the exact layout of a house party, whether it be at a Greek house, a dormitory, the Yellows or anything else,” Stephenson said.
Ahmed said that she is going to compile the notes that Senators took at the forum. Each group of Senators will present the proposals their groups discussed at the next Student Senate meeting. She said that Senate hopes to hold more events like this in the future that allow them to hear from students that they normally would not.
The notes will also be passed on to Amott and Schrader who will determine how the college should proceed.
Stephenson said that the college should present its next steps with transparency in mind and it should not be focused on scaring students.
“No matter what we do, the biggest thing is it needs to be transparent and it needs to be explained to people as a resource, not as a scare tactic,” Stephenson said.