Dear Knox Community,
As you know, the U.S. Senate is currently in the midst of confirmation proceedings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a nominee for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the course of these proceedings, allegations have arisen concerning sexual misconduct on a college campus, generating a national conversation and contributing to the #MeToo and #WhyIDidn’tReport social media movements.
We take this opportunity to remind the community how Knox College responds to reports of sexual misconduct. Our policies and procedures are designed to build a culture of respect and prevent sexual misconduct before it occurs, but when it does, we are committed to ensuring that the College responds promptly and equitably, giving all parties the opportunity to be heard. We understand the courage it takes to come forward in these circumstances. That is why we utilize trauma-informed investigators and provide confidential and non-confidential ways for parties to report their experiences, as well as interim measures and remedies to address the safety and well-being of those involved, regardless of if they choose to make a formal report. Our policies and procedures, and more information about making reports, can be accessed directly from the College’s home page and at www.knox.edu/respect.
While statistics tell the numbers, they cannot begin to convey the full experience of those who have experienced sexual misconduct. We recognize the current national conversation may be deeply distressing to members of our community and encourage you to seek support, available on campus from:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-341-7492
Counseling Services is a confidential resource.
The Title IX Coordinator
email@example.com or 309-341-7751The Title IX Coordinator can help arrange interim measures and remedies, as well as provide information about rights and options.
The Director of Spiritual Life
firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-341-7920
The Director of Spiritual Life is a confidential resource.
Division of Student Development Staff
309-341-7979 (24-hour phone)
Anonymous reports of sexual misconduct may be made online at www.knox.edu/anonymousreport. More information about available local and national resources is available on both the Counseling Services website (here) and Title IX website (here). Counseling through the College's Employee Assistance Program is available for employees and family members and provided by Precedence, Inc. All services are confidential and for additional information or to make an appointment, call 800-383-7900 or 309-779-2273.
We believe that a respectful learning community is a shared responsibility, and are committed to working collaboratively to foster a culture of respect and provide support for survivors. In order to change our College for good, it is essential that our actions match our values and that as members of the Knox community, we dare to care about one another.
Dear Knox Community,
I am writing to share some important news. Knox and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education recently entered into a resolution agreement resolving six Title IX complaints that included allegations regarding the College's response to reports of sexual misconduct.
As part of its extensive investigation that began in early 2014, the OCR carefully reviewed a substantial amount of information, including the College's policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct and other forms of sex discrimination; information provided by students and College representatives; and information regarding the Title IX training provided to the College community. As a result of its investigation, the OCR identified concerns regarding delays in processing some of the complaints included in the resolution agreement and some concerns with the College's Title IX policies and grievance procedures in effect at that time. The OCR specifically noted, however, that the "College recognized and took affirmative steps to address and resolve" these concerns. In light of the commitments the College has made in the resolution agreement, OCR has determined that it is appropriate to close the investigative phase and resolve these complaints with an agreement.
The affirmative steps that the College had taken before entering into this agreement with the OCR include:
In the resolution agreement with OCR, the College affirms our commitment to maintaining and disseminating our Title IX policies and procedures and operating our programs and activities in compliance with Title IX. The College also affirms our commitment to a comprehensive education and prevention program that informs the College community with ongoing efforts to strengthen individual knowledge and skills, specifically agreeing to:
In addition to the complaints covered by the resolution agreement, the OCR has notified the College of the outcome in three other matters: one matter was administratively closed by the OCR, one was dismissed by the OCR because comparable allegations had been raised in a lawsuit that was resolved in the College's favor, and in one the OCR determined that the evidence collected during OCR's investigation did not establish a violation of Title IX. We are awaiting the outcome of three additional Title IX complaints filed with OCR and will update the community when more information is available.
The improvements we have made over the past few years at Knox are powered in large measure by student-driven initiatives. I want to thank the students who participated in the OCR's investigation for their determination to change our College for good. Without their bravery, we could not have reached this point in our community's continuing journey toward eliminating discrimination and harassment. We are also deeply indebted to the OCR and Knox staff whose dedication and expertise make it possible for the College to provide fair, prompt and equitable responses to these difficult matters.
The resolution of these complaints does not end the work of ensuring that our actions match our values. I know I speak for all of us at Knox in recognizing that a respectful and safe learning community is a shared responsibility and in committing ourselves to that essential work.
Teresa L. Amott
Dear Knox Community,
Last week, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education announced changes in Title IX procedures, rescinding Obama-era guidance from 2011 and 2014. The department also issued a new Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct and announced a notice and comment process for gathering feedback from the public. Although we are still reviewing these changes and will continue to monitor further developments, the core mandate of Title IX remains: providing a prompt, equitable process for resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual misconduct.
I write today to affirm Knox College's commitment to that core Title IX mandate and to nurturing the underlying culture of respect necessary for an educational environment of equity and inclusion. We are confident our current Policy and Procedures related to sex discrimination, sexual misconduct, and interpersonal violence provide an equitable process for all parties—and these remain in effect. We will also continue to observe the requirements set forth by the State of Illinois for all institutions of higher education, including the use of the preponderance of evidence standard (established as part of the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act), as well as the requirements under the VAWA Amendments to the Clery Act.
Throughout the early weeks of this term, we have engaged new and returning students and employees in the project of building the Knox culture of respect. Through interactive online programs, in workshops led by peer educators and staff, and working in partnership with RAs, OLs, SPARK Mentors, Admission Ambassadors, and student leaders in Greek Life, Athletics, and Student Organizations, we continue our efforts to prevent all forms of sexual misconduct on our campus. As President Amott, Interim Dean of the College Mike Schneider, and Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich said in their comments to open the year, let all of us at Knox help ensure that this College is one that has no tolerance for sexual violence by holding ourselves and each other accountable for our actions.
If you have any questions about the College's commitment to Title IX, please contact me. Additional information and resources are available online here.
Dear Knox Community,
We start this new academic year burdened by current events that affect us all. In Charlottesville, we witnessed white supremacist violence and hatred. Changes in federal policy threaten to erode hard-won gains of Dreamers, transgender people, and survivors of sexual violence. Acts of terrorism and human rights violations continue around the world. Millions are imperiled by natural disasters across the planet, and famine stalks millions more.
In the face of these events, we call on every Knox community member to uphold our mission and values. We all share the responsibility for creating a culture of respect that affirms and protects the dignity and rights of every human being, regardless of their identities and locations on the planet. In our classrooms, offices, living spaces, playing fields, and performance spaces, let us all:
Tensions will inevitably arise in a remarkably diverse environment like ours. The privileges afforded to many of us are often hard to acknowledge, much less relinquish. And speech with which we disagree can be difficult to hear. These are the critical challenges of our educational mission, and so we ask that all of us at Knox-students, faculty, and staff alike-help ensure that this College is a truly inclusive and equitable community, one that welcomes disagreement, dialogue, and debate, but has no tolerance for hatred, intimidation, or violence.
While Knox has a storied history, one rooted in the ideals of our founders who spoke out against slavery and aspired to make higher education accessible to all, let us honor this history by holding ourselves and each other accountable for our actions in this present moment. This is the work of moral leadership to which we invite you.
Teresa L. Amott, President
Michael A. Schneider, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs
Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development
P.S. As we greet both new and familiar faces to Knox in the coming weeks, please take a moment to check in with each other and reach out to those who have been impacted by recent events. And always remember that whether you call the Knox campus home for four years or for 40, you are a valued member of our community.
Dear Knox Community,
We are writing today to provide several updates on the College's ongoing efforts to create a safe and respectful campus community.
Prevention and Education
Prior to arriving on campus, new students were introduced to both Haven and AlcoholEdu online training programs. To date, more than 80% of the Class of 2020 has completed both programs. SPARK mentors, Admission Ambassadors, Resident Assistants, and Orientation Leaders were also asked to complete the programs, which are available at my.knox.edu by clicking on the Haven icon. All members of the Knox community are encouraged to complete this training.
In addition to the online education, returning students trained as peer facilitators led 90-minute interactive workshops for all new students, covering reporting, trauma-informed response, combating rape myths and supporting survivors, and active bystander intervention. Following positive student feedback last year, the group, Speak About It once again offered their performance-based presentation about consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships, and offered facilitation training to all Orientation Leaders and Resident Assistants.
Resident Assistants were also certified in Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) to help students make sound choices when faced with difficult decisions about alcohol use. Additional TIPS opportunities are planned for fall term.
A new Illinois law requiring colleges and universities to take action to prevent and respond to sexual violence complaints went into effect on August 1, 2016. In accordance with this new legislation, the College's Policy Against Sex Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Interpersonal Violence and the accompanying Investigation and Resolution Procedures for Allegations of Sex Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Interpersonal Violence have been revised to ensure we remain in full compliance. The changes reflect clarifications and additional improvements and are in direct response to both legal requirements, national best practices, and feedback from members of the campus community. We will update the College's website ( www.knox.edu/respect) and provide additional print materials and other resources in the weeks ahead. As always, we welcome your continued responsiveness to these important matters.
In our continuing efforts to provide resources to those who have been affected by sexual violence, an additional on-campus confidential position has been created. The Director of Spiritual Life is available to provide confidential guidance and support to students as they consider their rights and weigh their options for the best and most empowering decisions they can make in their own lives. This confidential position is in addition to the current staff in Health Services and Counseling Services, who are all confidential reporters, and provide support services and guidance to students who are affected by sexual violence.
As a member institution of the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) consortium, Knox participated for the second consecutive year in a sexual assault climate survey. Our response rate to the most recent survey was only 18%, much lower than other participating institutions. As a result, our survey did not provide enough responses to reliably generalize results to the entire Knox student body. Despite that, we do note that the students who did complete the survey reported high levels of agreement that faculty, staff, and other students contribute to a positive and supportive campus climate.
Other responses served as a reminder of the work still to be done, including that Knox students of all genders report being at higher risk of sexual assault and are less confident in the College's response to a reported sexual assault than students at other institutions. Although this is an important caution, additional analysis garnered through the online educational program Haven, as well as individual surveys administered to all new students during New Student Orientation, point to increased awareness of available resources, including confidential ones, and important improvements in students' knowledge and ability to successfully intervene as active bystanders.
As you know from Director of Campus Safety Mark Welker's email on Friday, September 30, 2016, the College's Annual Security Report is now available (online here or in print from the Campus Safety office). This includes the federally required crime statistics (also referred to as Clery data) for the calendar year 2015, as well as other important safety information.
In addition to the Clery data for 2015, the College also provides aggregate information on cases resolved during academic year 2015-16 involving alleged or suspected violations of the College's sexual discrimination policy:
Every report is heartbreaking, but each disclosure also allows an opportunity for those who have experienced any form of discrimination and/or harassment to receive support and access resources. We remain committed to prevention and awareness education to eliminate gender-based violence and to the prompt and equitable resolution of all alleged or suspected violations of the College's policy.
It has already been a busy fall, with several programs yet to come, including a campus visit October 23-25 by nationally known expert Dr. Alan Berkowitz. Dr. Berkowitz will present a variety of workshops on sexual violence prevention utilizing a social norms and active bystander intervention approach. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in addition to other campus programs being offered by Counseling Services, Safe Harbor will sponsor a ‘Take Back the Night' rally at Lake Storey on October 18; free transportation is available through the Kleine Center for Community Service for students who wish to volunteer or participate in this powerful event. Everyone can show their support for healthy relationships and ending relationship violence on October 20 for national ‘Wear Purple Day,' and we hope you might consider showing your support.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the information we've shared today, please feel free to contact us.
Teresa Amott, President
Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development
Kim Schrader, Lead Title IX Coordinator
Dear Knox Community,
I am writing today regarding the recent news stories, including last weekend's stories in our regional papers, that have drawn attention to the numbers of rapes reported by colleges and universities, including Knox.
The coverage originated with two stories in the Washington Post on June 7, which highlighted the number of rapes reported in 2014 on the main campuses of U.S. colleges and universities with 1,000 or more students. The article used enrollment and campus crime data that every campus is mandated to provide to the U.S. Department of Education in its Annual Security Report ( read Knox's Annual Security Report). According to these data, Knox ranked fourth in the nation with 10 reports of rape per 1,000 students in 2014.
In response to these recent articles, I have written an op-ed piece that we have submitted to The Register-Mail noting that it is a step forward when an historically under-reported campus crime is more accurately reported and addressed. Here is a PDF of the op-ed for your reference and look for it to appear in the The Register-Mail later this week.
Dear Knox Community,
In this month dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness, we'd like to provide the campus with updates on the College's response to gender-based discrimination and harassment, including sexual violence. We'd also like to give you an opportunity to share your feedback with us (see the last paragraph of this message for a link to a short survey). We recognize these issues often engage deep passions and surface invisible traumas, and affirm that each of us must be accountable for our role in the campaign to end gender-based discrimination and harassment at Knox.
Changes to Practices & Procedures
Over the past three years, we have focused our work on responding to powerful advocacy by students and other members of the Knox community, emerging guidance from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and new findings on the effects of sexual trauma. In public forums, social media, and private sessions with students and their advocates, we heard suggestions that have led to significant changes, including:
Recent Reports and Investigations
As you may remember, one year ago we engaged an outside provider to perform investigations in our resolution process. Since that time, all investigations have been completed within the OCR recommended 60-day time frame referenced in our procedures. Equally important, the cumulative effect of these changes appears to be a more robust climate for reporting. We have received nearly 40 reports of Title IX-related incidents to date this academic year. Reports for these incidents originated in nearly equal numbers from the reporting parties themselves, RAs, and faculty and staff; others were received through the anonymous online reporting system. In many cases, we believe that an early report made a significant difference in providing a trauma-informed approach to support those who came forward.
Approximately one third of the reports involved sexual assault while the student was enrolled at Knox, with the others divided among other alleged violations of our policy on gender-based discrimination and harassment, such as stalking or verbal harassment. Parties in nearly half of the reports have sought and received interim measures and remedies, which include the provision of escorts, campus orders of no contact, academic and housing changes, and adjusted work and practice schedules. This group includes those who reported a history of sexual trauma prior to arriving at Knox and for whom we provided supportive services. While the number of parties that have utilized counseling services is confidential information, we do know that our counselors have expanded the options for counseling, including confidential survivor and other support groups, as well as advocacy hours.
In many of these cases, the reporting party has requested the College not pursue a full investigation and adjudication. In April 2014, the OCR ruled that colleges can respect that request in many cases. Most of our reports fall into this category, and, as a result, we are able to honor the reporting party's request. We moved to a formal investigation and finding in four of the reported sexual assault cases, in accordance with the reporting party's wishes and the need to take steps to protect the campus community. In other cases, the College has been unable to identify parties for an investigation, but we keep the report on file in the event that more information comes forward at a later date.
Prevention & Education Initiatives
We view the increased reporting and more timely investigation process as positive steps, and are also focusing on proactive prevention and education initiatives. For example, we have implemented the online interactive program Haven. Haven is required for entering students, resident assistants (RAs), athletes, and orientation leaders and has provided important data and analytics, which indicate our students are learning critical lessons about healthy relationships, active bystander intervention, and addressing the root causes of sexual violences. This year, nearly 500 students have participated in the Haven training, with significant gains in understanding and awareness based on pre- and post-assessment. This is but one small step, and we continue to pursue other ongoing primary prevention and awareness education efforts, including training and resource packets for RAs, enriched web content, and the use of social media, posters, and essential student-initiated programming. To access our online training resources for the Knox community, click here.
Some of you may have noted that the American Association of University Professors has issued a draft report on academic freedom and Title IX. Among their recommendations is a call for the OCR to provide an exemption from mandatory reporting for faculty members. We will monitor this matter closely, and should the OCR change its policy in this area, we will review the implications for Knox carefully.
Finally, many of you have asked about when we might expect to hear from the OCR about the conclusion of the investigation the OCR opened in January 2014. The OCR currently has 267 investigations under way; according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 percent of the investigations have been resolved to date. We continue to provide updates to the OCR and look forward to receiving notification of any resolution agreement they might propose to conclude their investigation.
We remain committed to creating and maintaining a campus free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct, yet we recognize that our efforts in this area have been seen as inadequate by some. We invite you to comment here on what other steps you suggest be taken and any other suggestions you have about improving the climate around Title IX issues in our community. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and to continuing our work together to address these important issues.
Teresa Amott, President
Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development
Kim Schrader, Lead Title IX Coordinator
Dear Knox Community,
We are writing today to share news about an exciting new campaign as part of the College's ongoing commitment towards fostering a culture of respect in our community. In response to a student-led initiative, Knox has pledged our support to be part of the It's On Us campaign.
It's On Us is a growing movement focused on reframing sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent violence. We are asking everyone to help create an environment, be it a residence hall, a party, a team, a club or organization, or our entire campus, where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. As students, faculty, and staff -- it's on us to make that happen.
The statistics on campus sexual assault are appalling -- one in five women and one in sixteen men nationally will be sexually assaulted during their college years. It's time we stand up and say no more to this epidemic. Change starts here.
That's why at Knox we are joining thousands of schools from around the country to become a part of the It's On Us campaign to end campus sexual assault. We have a responsibility to shift the narrative around sexual assault and create an environment that supports survivors. In coordination with the campaign, we will be hosting pledge-signing opportunities and other campus-wide events to raise awareness. We also hope to hear from you about the ways in which we can meet the needs of our students in the areas of primary prevention, awareness education, and informed response. You will be seeing It's On Us posters around campus soon with more information about how to get involved and share this important information with others, as well as other planned events. Be sure to ‘like' us on Facebook (Knox Dare To Care) and follow us on Twitter (@KnoxDareToCare), or email us at email@example.com.
Please visit ItsOnUs.org to take the pledge and join the movement today!
Teresa Amott and Kim Schrader
Dear Knox Students,
Some of you may have read or heard about an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on March 2, which called into question the confidentiality of mental health records from college counseling centers. Because of the critical importance of this issue, we sought advice from several outside experts, and can now reassure you that the confidentiality of our students' mental health treatment records is protected by a very strict Illinois state law entitled the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act.
We are fortunate because the State of Illinois has one of the strictest confidentiality laws in the United States. The only way counseling treatment records are ever disclosed is if a student gives consent to share those records. And, while the law protects our students' mental health records, the College also abides by ethical norms. We are committed to protecting the privacy of our students and to providing confidential resources for them on campus. That commitment goes beyond mere compliance with the law.
If you are in need confidential support and resources, a full list of resources is available online here. And if you have questions about this or want more information, please contact Dean of Students Deb Southern, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Counseling Services Dan Larson, or Title IX Coordinator, Kim Schrader.
Deb Southern, Dean of Students
Dan Larson, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Counseling Services
Kim Schrader, Title IX Coordinator
Dear Knox Community,
Through a variety of campus conversations, including with Student Senate and the Student Life Committee of the faculty, with the campus community in open forums, and, most important, with students, faculty and staff who have been involved in the Title IX process, we heard a clear message that the College's practice of using grievance panels needed to be re-considered. Grievance panels are currently used to resolve allegations of discrimination and harassment, and sex discrimination including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, interpersonal violence and stalking.
The Knox community was not alone in this assessment, which was consistent with emerging guidance from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the White House, and legal experts in the field of Title IX work. Many colleges and universities across the nation facing the same challenges we have at Knox have moved away from the use of campus grievance panels to resolve such allegations. In light of this campus and external feedback, the College has decided to move to an investigative model as the formal resolution process for all allegations of Title IX violations.
Revised policy and procedures reflecting this decision are effective immediately and are available online now at www.knox.edu/titleix. The College remains committed to providing an educational environment free from harassment and discrimination, and an equitable, thorough and timely adjudication process for all. To honor that commitment, we encourage all members of the Knox community to review them and, especially, hope that you will ask questions and provide relevant thoughts and feedback between now and March 12. Your feedback will be included in final revisions to the policies and procedures. Please direct your comments to Kim Schrader, lead Title IX coordinator ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or to either deputy Title IX coordinator Laura Schnack ( email@example.com) or Gina Zindt ( firstname.lastname@example.org). If you would like to provide feedback, but prefer to remain anonymous, please click here to submit your comments via a Qualtrics survey.
Beginning Spring Term, the College will offer online bystander intervention training for students. Training will occur through a systematic rollout of professional educational materials developed by trained experts and introduced to the Knox community with the assistance of stakeholders in the student body. This programming, along with ongoing training to answer questions and provide information and education on the College's policies and procedures, will be available to students in many aspects of their co-curricular experience, including but not limited to Student Senate, clubs and organizations, Greek organizations, athletics teams, and living units/residence halls.
In addition, the Title IX coordinators will be working with academic department and program chairs and staff directors to set up individual informational sessions and training for College employees on our policies and procedures. Work also will continue on the College website to provide more robust information with clear and easily accessible resources.
Working together to strengthen our response to acts of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct and violence, and stalking involves education across the entire campus and the input and participation of all members of our community. We welcome your continued suggestions in support of these evolving efforts as we continue to hold high the promise of equity, safety, and respect for every member of our community.
Teresa Amott and Kim Schrader
Dear Knox Community,
As noted in our September communication to the campus community, we have made some revisions in the Title IX policy and write today to let you know the revised policy and procedures are now live on the website here. These changes are based on input from student organizations and review of the emerging guidance from the Department of Education, and include a revised appeal process for sanctions and updated definitions of prohibited conduct in the realms of stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence in accordance with the Violence Against Women Act Amendments (VAWA) to the Clery Act. In addition, we have expanded the language on consent to make clear that Knox subscribes to an affirmative consent standard.
As reported in The Knox Student, we have also held discussions this fall with Student Senate and the Student Life Committee, as well as at meetings of the Faculty and Athletics staff, about more significant changes in our process for investigating and resolving allegations of violations of the College's Title IX policy. Colleges across the country are also considering new models for addressing these matters and we are watching carefully to see what best practices are developing at institutions like Knox. An open forum and small group discussion for students, sponsored by Senate, was held on November 11. The next step is an open forum for faculty and staff, which will be held this Friday, November 14, in Ferris Lounge at 12:00 pm and again in the Round Room at 4:00 pm. It is our hope that many will come to share their input so that we can incorporate these new discussions into revised policy and procedures by the beginning of Winter Term.
You may also remember that we added a staff position at the Health and Counseling Center in September. The title for this position, Staff Counselor & Sexual Assault Advocate, has been revised so as to make more visible the importance of Allison Schieferle Uhlenbrock's role in working confidentially with students to help them at every stage of the process.
Please review the policy online at www.knox.edu/titleix and join us for open conversation at the faculty and staff meetings on Friday. If you have any questions about Title IX at Knox, please contact Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader. We much appreciate your assistance as we continue our efforts to prevent sexual violence in our community.
Kim Schrader, Title IX Coordinator
Laura Schnack, Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Gina Zindt, Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Dear Knox Community,
As the new academic year begins, we want to encourage every member of the Knox Community to take an active role in the essential work of creating and maintaining a campus free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct. For us to continue to move forward, all of us at Knox must understand what it takes to be a responsible and caring member of the community, what conduct is prohibited and where to turn for help and support. We will soon begin distribution of newly-revised materials that contain additional information about these important subjects, and, over the coming weeks, we will share with you additional opportunities to learn more. Below, we have provided a few updates on our efforts over the summer to further our ongoing commitment to address sexual violence and on the status of the investigation that began last spring in response to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). We also look forward to partnering with the White House in the It’s On Us campaign that was launched last week aimed at changing the way everyone thinks about sexual assault. The focus of this initiative, and at the core of our Knox mission, is the charge that everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault.
Title IX Coordinators. Over the summer there have been changes in the composition of the Title IX team. As you know, Kim Schrader was appointed last July to the position of Title IX coordinator, replacing Dean Lori Schroeder who will be concentrating her efforts on her role as Associate Dean of the College. As of September 1, Professor Catherine Denial has taken up new responsibilities as the chair of FASCom and is no longer serving as Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Please join me in expressing my thanks to Dean Schroeder and Professor Denial for the important work of the past academic year. Director of Human Resources Gina Zindt and Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack will both continue their work as Deputy Title IX Coordinators with special responsibilities in the areas of staff and students, respectively.
In response to concerns about the availability of additional confidential support and resources for students, we welcomed Allison Schieferle Uhlenbrock as our new full-time Counselor for Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach early this month. We are also pleased to announce that Tracy Mergener, known to many of you as the Managing Director of Prairie Legal Services, has agreed to assist the College on a part-time basis with Title IX investigations. Ms. Mergener brings to the position decades of experience as an attorney and has completed special training on Title IX investigations. The College is in the process of hiring an administrative assistant to the Title IX coordinator to assist in maintaining the correspondence and records associated with the College’s Title IX work and in making arrangements for all Title IX-related activities, including educational events, workshops, and grievance hearings.
Policy and Procedures. Over the summer, we continued our careful monitoring of the guidance issued by the White House Task Force and the Department of Education to the higher education sector, along with evolving best practices at schools like Knox. In response to these, a few changes have been made to the College’s Title IX policy and procedures, including a revised appeal process for sanctions and updated definitions of prohibited conduct in the realms of stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence. Now that student organizations and faculty committees are back in session, we will resume more robust conversations on campus about other potential revisions to Knox’s policy and procedures and look forward to this dialogue.
Education and Media. Some of you may remember Arianna Timko ’11, who, among her other activities, was active at Knox in Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP). While a master’s degree candidate at the University of North Carolina, Arianna served as a graduate assistant for Interpersonal Violence Prevention, working with the One ACT bystander intervention training program. Over the summer, Arianna worked for Knox as a consultant to train current students active in ASAP to serve as peer educators and to refine a Consent and Communication curriculum previously developed by Knox students for Knox students. We want to thank the peer educators from ASAP for volunteering their time in this important communication effort and for leading expanded workshops with all of our new students over a period of two days. A brochure that identifies the resources and outlines options for victims of sexual misconduct has been provided to new students and will be supplemented by additional printed information aimed at education and prevention across campus. These materials will soon be available to all students, faculty and staff, and will be online, along with our policy and procedures, at www.knox.edu/daretocare.
Investigation into Music Ensemble. At the May 14, 2014 walkout event on campus at which students aired a number of concerns in a public forum, a student described experiences of harassment in connection with her participation in a College music ensemble. More than a year ago, the College had been made aware of similar allegations, and had investigated the matter at that time. As a result of that investigation, the College found that members of the ensemble had engaged in harassing conduct and that the faculty member who oversaw the ensemble had been aware of some of the conduct. In response, the College took a number of corrective actions, including but not limited to the imposition of sanctions on those responsible. Given the serious nature of the statements made during the walkout event and because it was unclear whether the statements involved new allegations that had not been investigated, the College engaged Marji Swanson of the law firm Mahoney, Silverman Cross, LLC. Ms. Swanson was charged with conducting an independent review of the College's 2013 investigation and ascertaining whether any harassing conduct had continued after the College's initial investigation and implementation of corrective actions. Ms. Swanson completed her review and investigation in late July and made two principal findings:
1. Her review identified some delays in the conduct of the 2013 investigation and found that documentation and communications regarding the investigation could have been handled more effectively. To that end, the College has made a number of changes in its investigation process.
2. Her review did not find any evidence of new or continued harassing conduct subsequent to the 2013 investigation. Nonetheless, the College will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the current environment in the music ensemble remains positive and productive for everyone involved. The College accepts these findings and will also provide ongoing education on Title IX for individuals who advise and supervise student organizations, ensembles, and other similar groups.
OCR Investigation. Over the summer, the College has continued responding to data requests from the OCR and has expressed interest in entering into a voluntary resolution agreement. As reported nationally, the OCR has seen a significant increase in its workload over the past year. While it is unclear when the OCR’s investigation will conclude, we will continue to keep you posted.
As we begin this new year, let us all aspire to truly become One Community. Dare to Care by stepping up and speaking out. Accept the challenge and embrace the recent White House initiative by taking the ‘It’s On Us’ pledge. For more information about the It’s On Us initiative, you can visit the website here. In accordance with the mission of our founders, may we together continue the good work we have begun to make ours a community free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct for all.
Teresa Amott and Kim Schrader
Dear Knox Community,
I write today to provide some updates on the progress of the College's Title IX initiatives.
Appointment of New Lead Title IX Coordinator. I am pleased to announce the appointment of Kim Schrader as the College's Title IX Coordinator, succeeding Associate Dean Lori Schroeder. Dean Schroeder is stepping down from the Title IX work in order to concentrate her efforts on the academic affairs role that drew her into administration from the faculty years ago. I am very grateful to Lori for her willingness to take on a new position last fall at a time of transition in the College's Title IX work and for her help in building the Title IX team. Kim Schrader has served as a Deputy Coordinator and is well-positioned and trained to step in as the lead Coordinator at this time.
OCR Investigation. As you may have read in the news media, since the initial announcement of 55 schools under investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the number has grown to 68. After the site visit by the OCR, we have continued to provide information in response to the OCR's requests as part of the process for resolution of the matter. As is typical when a school is under investigation, additional complaints involving Knox have been filed with the OCR and are under investigation; the College is cooperating fully with the OCR in these cases as well. Next Steps. We are working on revisions in our policy and procedures to address the April 29, 2014 guidance that came from the OCR and the Campus SaVE Act, as well as the advice and counsel of participants in the process last year and the perspectives of Knox faculty, staff and students. Among these revisions are clarifications of the steps the College will take to determine how best to honor student requests for confidentiality while still providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. As we receive new guidance and advice from the OCR, we will continue to incorporate that guidance as well.
The Office of Student Development is developing additional proactive measures aimed at continuing to build a culture of campus respect and safety. These initiatives build on the work of student activists against sexual violence in organizations such as SASS and ASAP dating back a number of years, and the commitment of this administration to support and expand those efforts. OSD staff are focusing on programs beginning with Orientation and continuing through the "Red Zone," the 6-week period at the beginning of the term in which national research suggests that the risk of sexual violence tends to be higher. Through the rest of the upcoming academic year, new programming will be introduced based on learning objectives which include inclusion and diversity, sexual respect, alcohol and other drugs education and prevention, and peer education. Look for active bystander training, consent and communication workshops, RA and OL training, Greek educational programs, the Prairie Fire Excellence series, outside speakers and programs, online learning opportunities, and other planned initiatives. Also look for education programs and materials that assist faculty and staff in fulfilling their duty to report as responsible employees while addressing requests for confidentiality in a manner that is consistent with Title IX and OCR guidance.
I want to take this time to thank everyone on campus who has participated in anti-discrimination efforts. This work is time-consuming and often challenging as we seek to adapt to a changing compliance environment. Nonetheless, it is essential work at the core of our mission as a college. While we cannot eliminate the pain experienced by those who have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct, we can commit ourselves as a community to the goal of making Knox a campus free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct for all.
Dear Knox Community,
Thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who met with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) representatives during their site visit on Wednesday and Thursday. Shortly before the site visit ended on Thursday afternoon, we asked about the timeline for the OCR's resolution and when we might expect to hear back from them. The OCR was not able to give us an estimate, but the OCR staff indicated that they hoped to work as quickly as possible knowing that the College was eager to receive their findings and guidance.
As I promised in an earlier communication, we asked the OCR representatives for further guidance on the question of whether faculty members are required to report alleged or suspected incidents of sexual assault or sexual violence to a member of the Title IX team, and the OCR confirmed that this is indeed required. For those who wish to report on a confidential basis, I remind the community that information about confidential reporting sources is available here (scroll down to the section on confidential reporting).
We expect that there may be additional requests for information and clarification as a result of the OCR's interviews and meetings (i.e., the focus groups, meeting with SASS, and office hours) and will respond in the same spirit of collaboration with which we have approached the investigation to date.
I thank you again and invite you to contact me or the College's Title IX Coordinator, Lori Schroeder, with any questions you might have.
Dear Knox Community,
I am writing today with an important announcement to the Knox community. This past January, the College was informed by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (Region V) that it had opened an investigation into a complaint alleging that Knox College had discriminated on the basis of sex in its response to a complaint of sexual misconduct. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has asked to review a number of College records, including College policies and procedures. Since January, the College has worked diligently to comply with the OCR's requests for information and has made available the requested materials. As is typical of its fact-finding in these types of matters on college campuses, the OCR will conduct a site visit the week of May 19th to interview College officials with regard to the allegations and to meet with selected groups of students to discuss their experiences.
Starting this past summer, the College undertook a significant review of its policies addressing discrimination under Title IX and, in particular, identified ways that we could strengthen our response to acts of sexual misconduct. To that end, we have trained a number of individuals to join our Title IX team and charged them with working to keep our campus free from discrimination and harassment. The College also formed a Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response that meets weekly under the leadership of Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder. The Task Force, in conjunction with the Title IX team, has developed a number of new initiatives: new print and web materials, campus-wide educational events, bystander intervention training, a confidential support group for survivors, and a new position for a counselor for violence prevention and educational outreach.
Over the years, the higher education community has learned a great deal from the improvements in campus practices adopted by colleges and universities working in partnership with the Office of Civil Rights. I know I speak for the entire Knox community when I pledge the College's full cooperation with the OCR's inquiry and our shared goal of providing a safe and respectful educational climate for every member of the Knox community.
For more information on the OCR's visit to campus, please read this FAQ. If you have questions about the upcoming site visit and review, I encourage you to contact the President's Office.
Dear Knox Community,
You may recall my January 27 message informing the campus community that President Obama had convened the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in response to the unacceptably high level of sexual violence on our nation's campuses. The President called on all of us to be a part of the solution to this problem, noting that ending sexual assault would require a fundamental change in our culture. Over the past few years, the Knox community -- student advocates, faculty, and staff -- has worked to bring about this change, and our work is ongoing.
Today, the White House has released the Task Force's first report, entitled Not Alone, and an associated Fact Sheet. These two documents include important recommendations, checklists, and toolkits for campuses in four areas:
The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education, which is charged with enforcing Title IX, has also released a very helpful document entitled Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Taken together, these documents provide clear and specific guidance that will be very important as our campus community continues its work in these areas. I encourage every member of the Knox community to read these documents and to consider how you might participate in the College's ongoing efforts.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in these extensive efforts, especially the student advocates, faculty, and staff members who are members of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the Title IX Team. The Task Force, in conjunction with the Title IX team, has already developed a number of new initiatives: new print and web materials, campus-wide educational events, bystander intervention training, a confidential support group for survivors, and a new position for a counselor for violence prevention and educational outreach. We all recognize and appreciate that these are just the first steps and that changing a culture will require our best and ongoing efforts.
As part of that ongoing work, I have asked Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder to review the White House recommendations with the Knox Title IX Team and the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. We will be back in touch with the campus with the results of our review and next steps.
Together we will live up to the promise of equity, safety and respect for every member of our campus community.
Dear Knox Community,
I write today with an update on our overall review of the ways in which Knox responds to and works to prevent discrimination, harassment and violence on our campus. An important part of that review has been to work with Title IX experts in order to incorporate into our policies and procedures the emerging guidance from the Department of Education and the best practices that our peer institutions are putting into place. The first group of revised policies and procedures can be found here on the Knox website, along with my previous messages to the campus on these topics. As you will see, the majority of the changes address student-to-student allegations of violations of Knox policy regarding Title IX, and we are now in the midst of preparing the parallel changes in the Employee and Faculty Handbooks. We are also building our Title IX Team, adding individuals across campus who will receive special training in these matters. As new members of the team are added, the website will be revised with their contact information.
Since the DOE guidance and the best practices are evolving, Knox, like other colleges, will continue to make revisions and updates in order to serve our community better and come closer to our goal of a campus free from all kinds of sexual misconduct. We are also working on ways to ensure that this information is readily available on the new Knox website which we will launch later this summer.
The newly formed Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response chaired by Dean Lori Schroeder, Knox's Lead Title IX Coordinator, is focused on planning and implementing a coordinated institutional education and outreach campaign around these issues. As part of this mandate, the Task Force is working on a series of brochures, posters and flyers that will be distributed across the campus in the coming months. Each of these communications will be aimed at specific audiences and will focus on elements such as how to find confidential help, how to report an incident, and what supportive resources are available on campus and in the larger community. As those are completed, we will also provide parallel online material so that every member of the community knows where to find the information they need. The Task Force is also providing input into other programmatic initiatives to better support students, faculty and staff affected by discrimination and violence. I am grateful to the members of the Task Force for their commitment to these issues and look forward to seeing the fruits of their work.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Dean Schroeder at email@example.com or to me. Thank you again for your attention to this important matter.
Dear Knox Colleagues,
On November 27th of last year and January 27th of this year, I updated the campus on the College's efforts to develop and advance our compliance with Title IX and to provide all of our students with an educational environment that is free from discrimination of all types. We continue to make strides in our compliance efforts, and I am grateful to the efforts of everyone who has worked on this initiative with me. Making Knox a better place truly resonates with our history of access and excellence.
Along those same lines, I write today to tell you of an important opportunity we have to continue to improve the Knox educational environment. In cooperation with the College's principal insurer, United Educators (UE), all Knox employees will have access to online training regarding sexual harassment awareness and prevention. Because this training is of the utmost importance to our community, I am directing that all employees participate in this online training and complete the required program by Monday, March 31, 2014.
In true Knox fashion, we are already off to a good start as nearly one-third of all Knox employees have participated in the training since September 2013 and have received certification. The success of the program thus far leads me to believe that with a concerted effort on the part of supervisors and individual employees, we can meet the March 31st deadline. I am asking supervisors to work with their staff to ensure that they are aware of the need for this training and that adequate time and access to computers is given to employees to participate. I anticipate that the online training will take no more than one hour. Hourly employees will be paid for the time required for the training.
Why is this important?
Most of all, this is important because of our mission and history: we are committed to a campus environment that is free from discriminatory behaviors and actions that are harmful to individuals and to our community as whole and that undermine our mission as a college. In addition, as an institution, Knox has a degree of responsibility for the actions of its employees (faculty and staff) and even guests (visitors, contractors, etc.). The responsibility is not absolute but under the law, Knox-like any other employer-must take reasonable steps to address and prevent behaviors and actions on campus that are illegal under federal and state laws, and especially so when it has reason to believe or actually knows of illegal behavior.
Knox employees and students need to know that there are steps that can and must be taken to ensure that no individual at Knox is subjected to discriminatory behavior. The online training offered by United Educators (UE) will help all members of the Knox community with 1) understanding what constitutes sexual harassment, 2) identifying the behaviors or indicators of sexual harassment, and 3) understanding the appropriate ways to address the occurrence of sexual harassment.
Finally, participation and completion of UE's online training will help Knox demonstrate that as an institution, we are taking the proper risk management steps necessary to help decrease the risk of potential claims of sexual harassment on our campus. As a community, our participation in the online training will help the College maintain its insurability and help keep our insurance premiums as low as possible.
If you have any questions regarding signing up for the training or the content of the material provided, or have any follow up questions/comment that you would like to convey, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Gina Zindt or Barbara Schulze in Human Resources.
If You Would Like to Know More ...
There is a great deal of focus on college and university campuses these days regarding acts of a sexual nature and/or assault involving campus community members and especially those involving groups that are particularly vulnerable to such acts.
UE has provided its member institutions with statistics about the number of claims it receives from institutions of higher learning involving claims (i.e., lawsuits) of sexual harassment on campus. As you can guess, the number of claims is large and growing. UE has a duty to its member institutions to provide services such as awareness and prevention training that can have a demonstrative effect in reducing the number of incidents which can result in a claim situation.
The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' statement contained in a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) dated April 4, 2011 regarding sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: ( http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.html).
The Freeh Report assessing the environment and the disregard for proper controls and reporting that led to the sexual abuse of minors on the campus of Penn State University.
I am grateful to you all for your cooperation with this initiative.
As my earlier messages to the campus have noted, since last summer I have been working to update the campus policies, procedures and programming in the area of sexual harassment and violence. I am pleased that Dean Schroeder has convened the Task Force to bring student organizations, faculty and staff into this work and look forward to the recommendations from that group. I have also engaged a Title IX expert to work with us on the development of interim policies and procedures that are consistent with the Department of Education’s evolving guidance on matters such as remedies for victims, equity and fairness for all parties, timely and thorough investigation and notification, and education and training programs across the campus. We will be bringing these strengthened policies and procedures to various campus groups in addition to the Task Force in the coming month for review and comment. In addition, we continue to build our on-campus team and I am pleased to announce that Kim Schrader, Operations Director for Budget & Compliance in the Athletics Department, will join us as Deputy Coordinator, serving alongside Human Resources Director Gina Zindt and Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack.
Dear Knox Community,
You may recall that last November, I wrote to announce that I was appointing Dean Lori Schroeder as our Title IX Coordinator, responsible for overseeing the College's ongoing commitment to gender equity and to ending sexual harassment. Last week, President Obama convened the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to address the unacceptably high level of sexual violence on our nation's campuses. In his remarks, the President referred to estimates that 1 in 5 college women have been sexually assaulted during their college years, but only 1 in 8 report the assault to law enforcement. At the same time, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report outlining the dimensions of the problem and steps that can be taken to address it. I encourage every member of the Knox community to read the report, which can be found here.
The President called on all of us to be a part of the solution to this problem, noting that ending sexual assault would require a fundamental change in our culture, "a shift in our attitudes about how we think about sexual violence, and how much we value the lives and dignity of our wives and sisters and daughters and sons."
Since I last wrote, Dean Schroeder has invited a task force of faculty, staff and students to work with her on ways to shift the campus culture. The Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response will begin with a campus climate survey intended to shed light on the issue of sexual violence and on the efficacy of the Knox programs that have been developed to prevent and to respond to sexual violence. You will be hearing more from us as the Task Force meets and makes recommendations on how we can improve our campus response to sexual violence.
Dean Schroeder and I welcome your suggestions on how Knox can become a safer and more respectful place, a campus free of sexual violence of all types.
Dear Knox Community,
As the issues of sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence are much in the news these days, I wanted to write to let you know about our efforts over the past year as we seek to provide all of our students with an educational environment that is free from discrimination of all types. This is not only Knox's obligation under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, but, more important, it is at the core of our own historic mission of access and excellence.
I am pleased to announce that Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder has agreed to take on the role of Title IX Coordinator at the College. Her duties will include overseeing training and education regarding Title IX, ensuring the integrity of the process of addressing all Title IX complaints, and submitting a written report of findings and recommendations for disciplinary and/or corrective action to the appropriate College officer (such as the Dean of the College or the Dean of Students). In this work, Dean Schroeder will be assisted by Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack and Director of Human Resources Gina Zindt, who will serve as Deputy Coordinators. Together, these three will manage the day-to-day responsibilities associated with Title IX, with particular emphasis on cases involving gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking.
These three individuals will work closely with me and with Bob King (serving as Special Counsel to the College) on all our Title IX efforts to foster a culture of respect, accountability, equity, fairness and concern on the Knox campus. Along with Deans Behling and Southern, all of us have completed an extensive training course in Title IX Coordination from the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf and Officer Cassidy Voyles have also taken this course and in addition have received special training to investigate Title IX complaints in accordance with the best practices identified by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education.
During this fall term, we have met with the Student Life Committee to keep them apprised of our progress. We have revised our published Grievance Procedures to align them more closely to the current guidance from the Department of Education, trained members of the Grievance Panel, and consulted with external experts on Title IX investigation, adjudication, and enforcement. These are only the first steps, and there are more to come, especially involving education across the entire campus, so please stay tuned as we seek your input and participation in our efforts.