Faculty and staff members who met Friday to discuss possible changes to the Grievance Panel showed heavy preference for the college moving to an Investigative Model.
According to President Teresa Amott and Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader, about 30 faculty and staff members attended the two sessions held by the college where they discussed the changes that are being considered for the Grievance Panel. Student Senate hosted a similar session for students on Tuesday night. Amott said that most of the people at the sessions had participated in the Grievance process, either as process advisors or panel members.
“People who have experience with the process have a perspective that sees value in the Investigative Model because they see outcomes that allow us to do things very effectively and more timely and also invest resources in prevention, education and intervention,” Schrader said.
This term, Amott and members of the Title IX team have discussed either removing students from sitting on the Grievance Panel or dissolving the current Grievance Panel structure and changing to an Investigative Model, where a trained Title IX investigator would evaluate cases of sexual assault and misconduct.
According to Amott, if the college chooses to follow the Investigative Model it would involve outsourcing the investigation and hearing process to a trained Title IX professional, likely an attorney or paralegal. Currently, Campus Safety runs the investigation and the hearing and finding are handled by the Grievance Panel — which is made up of Knox faculty, staff and students.
“While there’s no perfect model out there and there are pros and cons to every kind of model you can come up with, I think that it does make a lot of sense for us to move toward the Investigative Model. Our community is very small and for that reason to protect student’s privacy it’s very difficult to continue to have large panels with faculty, students’ peers and staff members that that student will then see everyday on this campus,” Associate Professor of Modern Languages Robin Ragan said.
“I would say it’s unanimous overall,” Schrader said.
Affirmative Action Officer and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Gina Zindt said that she has not yet decided what she thinks will best serve the community.
“Whatever it is, it needs to be what fits with the Knox culture and what serves the students and the whole community better,” Zindt said. “There’s an end we’re trying to get to. We’re trying to get to a place so we want to do the right thing.”
Amott said that if the college chooses to follow an Investigative Model, they would be able to invest more resources into education about and the prevention of sexual assault and misconduct.
“We are in a better position to do education and discussion and conversation and training and orientation and all of that, but we can’t do that if we’re spending so many hours in the investigation and the hearing panel. And the feeling was nobody wants to be sitting in hearing panels, what we want is to have less need for those panels,” she said.
Students have expressed concerns about a potential lack of transparency if the college moves to an Investigative Model, as students would no longer sit on the hearing panel. Amott said that the college would like to hold discussions for the community to talk about the process and issues surrounding it. She also stressed the students would still be able to talk to the investigator during the course of his or her investigation.
Amott said that the college still is looking to receive feedback from several other parties, but hopes to start making changes to the Grievance Panel during Winter Term.
Schrader stressed that if the college does move to an Investigative Model, all of the resources that are currently available to students will continue to be available. Some of these include having a process advisor for the student’s hearing and interim protective measures such as no contact orders, moving rooms or changing class schedules.
“All the other attributes of the services that are offered and the resources that are available to students in terms of trained process advisors — we will still do all those things. Students can have an advisor of their choice, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop training faculty and staff to be process advisors, we’ll in fact be able to spend more resources doing those things. Students will still be afforded the opportunity to have advisors of their choice and to have those people be able to consult with them throughout the process. And interim protective measures — that’s something that this institution can do and wants to do, so none of that goes away,” Schrader said.