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President Randhawa addresses sexual misconduct procedures with email

In an email, President Sabah Randhawa announced plans create a separate Title IX Office focused specifically on investigating cases of sexual misconduct. // Photo courtesy of University Communications

By Emma Kivlin

In an email sent to all Western students on Thursday, Sept. 27, President Sabah Randhawa addressed sexual violence and misconduct on campus, particularly the university’s actions to prevent and respond to such events.

Randhawa outlined the concerns that members of the Western community have voiced in recent quarters and expressed his fear that these concerns could lead to students feeling unable to come forward with cases of sexual misconduct as they would “have no faith in the process and the accountability that follows from it.”

Randhawa also shared the university’s plans to restructure the system.

One of the first steps Western will be taking is to make a separate Title IX Office to focus specifically on investigating cases of sexual misconduct, Randhawa said in the email.

The new office will also oversee Western’s “institutional policies, processes and prevention efforts,” Randhawa said.

Title IX, a federal civil rights law passed in 1972, made discrimination against any person because of their gender identity in any educational structure in the U.S. illegal.

Title IX requires that schools prevent sexual violence and misconduct, and legally requires universities to respond to allegations of such instead of dismissing cases on the basis of gender.

Western will begin a national search to locate and hire a coordinator with Title IX experience to head the new department.

Until the new coordinator is hired, the Equal Opportunity Office on campus will continue to head Title IX related investigations, Randhawa said.

Randhawa also referenced the Internal Audit report that was filed spring 2017, stating that the recommendations from the report suggested specific improvements Western could make to better its response to allegations of sexual misconduct.

These suggestions were primarily focused on providing prompt response times for complaints, increased focus from staff toward the handling of misconduct-related cases and communication between the students and faculty as well as between the Office of Student Life and the Equal Opportunity Office.

In response to the recommendations, Western’s Discrimination Response Procedure will be revised and updated no later than January 2019 and will have timely review processes complete with notifications sent to individuals as to the outcome of their cases, Randhawa said.

There will also be efforts to increase communication among all parties involved in Title IX casework to improve accountability and response time, Randhawa said.

For now, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Melynda Huskey will become the new Deputy Title IX Coordinator.

Randhawa also mentioned the current sexual misconduct prevention training that Western requires, an online program called HAVEN, which all new students must take in order to attend school.

This school year will be the start of a required secondary HAVEN training program for all students at the end of their second or beginning of their third year. The new training program is intended to increase scenario-based training on communication and consent, Randhawa said.

Randhawa ended the email by encouraging students and faculty alike to start conversations about ways Western can further address sexual misconduct and included contact information for help centers on campus.

For questions about Western’s policies and procedures following allegations of sexual misconduct, contact Dr. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger at (360) 650-3307 or at sue.guenter-schlesinger@wwu.edu.

The office of Consultation and Sexual Assault Support, CASAS, provides support services for incidents of assault harassment, dating violence or emotional abuse. To contact CASAS, call (360) 650-3700.

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