Beyond PACE, the other support structure for victims of sexual assault on campus manifests in the form of Title IX, which stems from the Department of Justice.
“Most people think of Title IX as a women’s athletics equitability, but it’s actually much more,” Baker University Title IX Coordinator and Dean of Students Cassy Bailey stated.
Beyond nondiscrimination, the law also requires a variety of protections and supports surrounding sexual assault. However, Bailey explained, the legal requirements and policies in this area are vastly swayed by presidential administrations and have changed as the administrations have transitioned.
It is through Title IX that the school’s sexual assault reporting system is structured. Bailey said that, through the law, victims have a list of rights for which the school is responsible.
Bailey went on to elaborate on the system by which sexual assault is reported and resolved at Baker.
“Everybody’s a mandated reporter,” Bailey stated. She further highlighted that all faculty and staff at Baker, excluding the counseling center and the university minister, are required to report any knowledge on topics such as sexual assault. “If someone is aware of something, they have to report it to my office, and we do not report that out loud to the group, but we do an investigation and that’s really dependent on what the student wants to do. It’s very victim led.”
Once a report is made, whether by a mandated reporter, a victim coming forward or, as Bailey clarified happens often, a friend of a survivor bringing up concerns, action occurs swiftly.
“When they come into my office, the first thing I can do is listen, believe and offer resources,” Bailey said. Immediate resources available for survivors include no contact orders, the rearrangement of classes, living situations, or even ways that students walk on campus and options in classes that range from late withdrawals to being excused from tests or homework for a period of time. From there, Bailey works with the victim to work toward resolutions.
Students experiencing issues tend to have two options. The first option is an informal resolution, in which a solution is mediated and agreed upon in Bailey’s office.
“They want to have some closure for themselves. They want to make sure the other person is aware of what’s happened,” Bailey explained. “Typically, the victim survivor says ‘this is what I want’ and that’s what happens.”
Bailey went on to describe that in most informal resolution cases, there is a previous relationship between the victim and the accusee.
“Typically, there’s a friendship or knowledge of each other beyond what you see in conduct cases,” Bailey stated. She also explained that, because informal resolutions are agreed upon measures, they are often dependent on the accusee stepping up and admitting what they did was wrong. Overall, Bailey offered, this method can be easier for some victims.
“It changes for the victim because they’re like ‘Thank you–I appreciate somebody saying this, and I don’t need to go through a formal conduct hearing because I got what I wanted, which is you to acknowledge that you hurt me, and so now what I’d like to do is get to a sanctioning period,” Bailey elaborated.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the other available option for resolution arises in the form of a conduct hearing. In this scenario, Bailey becomes solely the investigator for Title IX, and there is no mediation. She begins the process with the collection of evidence, which consists largely of extensive notes and interviews with all involved parties, but can also include elements such as video clips or records of door access.
All of this evidence is then compiled and arranged in a binder, at the end of which is Bailey’s report, which summarizes the elements and conclusions of the investigation. Both victim and alleged perpetrator are able to look over this binder.
In the hearing itself, confidentiality is valued highly. The victim and alleged perpetrator enter through separate exits and are unable to see each other due to a physical barrier. The case is then heard by a trained panel composed of faculty or staff. Each party tells their side, witnesses are brought forward and there is a cross examination.
At the end of the hearing, a verdict is reached and a victim impact statement is read.
“Typically, the person is found responsible,” Bailey stated. Sanctions resulting from a conduct hearing include expulsion, suspension or counseling.
Bailey also clarified that the school’s handling of sexual assault varies from law enforcement in that it operates on a system of preponderance of evidence rather than shadow of doubt, which views it as more likely than not that accusations brought forward are veritable.
Every time a report is made, it generates what is known as a “Clery number.” This is in reference to the Jeanne Clery Act, a law which mandates transparency from universities in terms of criminal awareness. Under the act, the school publishes an annual security report, which provides insight into the frequency of sexual assault reports at Baker.
Bailey explained that the reports are always a year behind. However, due to COVID complications, the example report below was filed in January rather than October.
Due to this delay, the most recent statistics available from the report are from the 2019 calendar year. However, Bailey was able to provide insight into the number of reports made in the current school year. In the 2020-2021 school year, three reports of sexual assault have been made. There was a fourth report made on Baker University’s Baldwin City campus. However, it was in reference to events that occurred prior to this academic year, and therefore would be counted in the year in which it did happen. Bailey further explained how these were resolved.
“This year it’s been interesting. 100% of them have wanted the informal resolution. We have not done a case,” Bailey said.
She also stated that there were a similar number of reports made in 2020 as a calendar year. But, this framing includes cases that went through hearings.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (or RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, approximately one in four undergraduate females experience sexual assault and approximately four out of five cases of sexual assault on college campuses are not reported.
Ultimately, Bailey emphasized, sexual assault is a matter that is not taken lightly by the school.
“Baker takes this incredibly seriously, and so when someone comes forward, maybe that person has already experienced trauma, but what I want them to know is that we’re not going to brush it under the rug. These are not things I’m going to ignore,” Bailey stated.