Campus SaVE Act prompts college policy adjustments

A February 17 email sent by Interim Title IX Coordinator Patricia Flaherty Fischette announced four major changes on campus: an effective date of March 7 for the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act), the launch of the first of several videos on the college’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Resources website, a new partnership with Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) and plans for Judicial Affairs Coordinator Nathan Miller to start releasing an aggregate statistical summary of all student misconduct cases in the fall of each academic year.

Passed in March 2013, the Campus SaVE Act is part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and revises the present Clery Act. Fischette explained that it involves expanding categories such as interpersonal violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking and hate crimes to consider within Title IX.

“[The act] will also include broadening my training to make sure it hits on the spectrum of sexual violence so that people know they can use me as a resource if they are involved in anything of that nature,” she said.

The increased training also involves Public Safety.

“In anticipation of the Campus SaVE Act and its requirements, we identified incidents that fell into the category of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and intimate partner violence in our 2013 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report, which was published last October,” Michael Hill, director of public safety said. “We are working collaboratively with other campus offices, such as the deans’ office and student activities, to identify better ways to make our community more aware of the act and, more importantly, the spectrum of sexual violence, and how we can prevent those incidents on our campus.”

Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate and Educator Nina Harris, who joined the college last October, has helped facilitate interactions between Public Safety and students.

“What my role was able to provide with [training] was helping build student affairs and Public Safety, getting Public Safety to understand what campus life is like,” she said. “The more they can be keyed into what students are doing, the more we can function as a comprehensive and cohesive network.”

Regarding the changes with WOAR, the college will partner with Philadelphia County’s branch — which Fischette called “very solid” — to provide students with the appropriate training at WOAR’s Philadelphia facility. This will entail a 40-hour rape crisis counselor training. Director of Student Health Services Beth Kotarski explained that this rigorous training distinguishes WOAR from Speak 2 Swatties.

“[The training] goes over basic counseling skills, understanding resources and systems, what a rape kit is, what interactions with police or administrators may be, history of anti-violence and how society has thought about these issues,” Harris said. “It talks about the interactions for different populations … but it’s not so much focused on making someone a psychiatrist but on understanding barriers and connecting people with support.”

Training will start in late March or early April. Harris also added that the program is not only a responsive measure but also a preventative one.

“I expect calls that will come to our hotline will also be about concern,” she said. “The more we educate everyone, the more it becomes part of the community’s checks and balances.”

While plans for partnership with Philadelphia’s WOAR, as well as potentially Delaware County’s WOAR, are already in discussion, Fischette explained that the details are still a work in progress. Additionally, Kotarski said that other colleges and universities have similar programs, although WOAR is not the only model used.

“It’s helpful to take a historical perspective,” she said. “A lot of violence shelters of the ’70s really bubble up with a grassroots effort in responding to sexual and domestic violence. Those models were really mimicked in colleges. … We’re really moving away from all those. That time needs fortifying.”

Fischette added that they want to ensure choosing the best model.

“What we’re worried about is that we’d never want to put forward a model that doesn’t provide the legal confidentiality,” she said. “Other models may have other definitions of legal confidentiality. We wanted to provide the most comprehensive approach possible. … In our policy and in line with federal guidelines, confidentiality means recognized [in the state of PA] by counselor training.”

Kotarski, Harris and Fischette will all collaborate to choose the peer counselors. They are still figuring out the application process’ specifics.

“The application process for ASAP was very rigorous,” Kotarski said. “We can rely on that model to a certain extent.”

She expects that the application will entail presenting different scenarios to students in order to gauge their comfort with the subject.

Fischette hopes that students will recognize WOAR as one of the multiple options they have on campus in seeking help.

“As a counselor, I know that people deal with experiences very differently,” she said. “We want to provide as many resources as possible so people can find what works best for them. We’re all in this together, with the ultimate goal of eliminating sexual violence. … I want to highlight that the people working at the college are here to help in a variety of ways.”

Regarding the aggregate statistical summary — which will take effect next spring — Miller explained that this will be the most public forum in which such records have been published.

“Historically we posted our hearing outcomes from the College Judiciary Committee on a board outside the Dean’s Office,” he said in an email. “If you happened to walk past the board, you would see it, but if you didn’t, you would have no way of knowing the outcomes of any of the cases, or get any sense of what kinds of cases were being heard. We have now moved from this practice to an improved model of an annual report that will reach the entire community.”

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