Just under one year ago, Organizing for Survivors released a list of policy and practice changes as demands to the college. In light of O4S’ demands, the Title IX Office, led by coordinator Bindu Jayne, updated its sexual assault harassment policies and procedures for the 2018-2019 academic year. The changes include creating a witness coordinator role, creating specific guidelines regarding interview length and breaks, extending the appeals period to five days, expanding interim measures, and outlining the rights and options that potential complainants have in the investigative process.
The Title IX Office released a document in September outlining changes to the college’s sexual harassment policies and procedures in an effort make them more accessible to students and to respond to student feedback.
“We did create this standalone document that identified the changes [to the policy], because one of the concerns that I heard from talking to students when I first started was, ‘Yes, I hear that changes have been made, but we don’t have the time and it’s not our expertise to sort of pore over the policy and compare it and understand what the changes are,’” Jayne said. “So I tried to very intentionally make it clear what the changes are so that if people still have concerns, they can address them with me.”
The Title IX office also switched from using internal investigators to external investigators this semester. Jayne created a feedback process about the Title IX adjudication process that allows the Title IX office to address concerns raised around any outside investigators or adjudicators. She said that the Title IX office has used feedback to avoid utilizing specific external adjudicators that students raised concerns about.
Jayne and the Title IX office have been meeting with the Title IX transition team, the membership of which largely overlaps with O4S, to focus on implementing methods informed by transformative justice, which O4S core member Julius John Balisanyuka-Smith ’21 describes as processes for perpetrators of sexual assault to amend their behavior.
“The idea behind transformative justice is that any one harm happens to an entire community,” he said. “There has to be an effort by perpetrators to acknowledge harm and to better themselves, and more importantly the entire community, in the process; there should also be an effort on the part of the community to forgive the perpetrators and to move away from the incarceration method.”
Morgin Goldberg ’19, a core member of both O4S and a member of the transition team, hopes to expand the transition team to reflect more voices on campus.
“We don’t want [the transition team] to be a smaller branch of O4S — it should include people on campus, ideally, and from different communities and a variety of identities who can speak to what their needs are as well — so we’re hoping to get more people on the transition team.”
One of the tasks of the transition team is to vet transformative justice options to determine whether they would be effective for the Swarthmore campus and community. Jayne asked members of the transition team about helping vet transformative justice options in order to better determine whether they fit the community.
“I did a lot of the leg work in terms of identifying what resources exist within our community that we could incorporate in terms of transformative justice options, but the next step in that is vetting all of them and making sure that they fit,” Jayne said. “I’ve had some conversations with the student members of the transition team about their interest level in participating with that vetting process with me. The next process with that is figuring out what that looks like and the timing of that. I’m hoping that we’ll do that work this semester,” she said.
Goldberg expressed that in order to be most effective, the administration should allow Jayne to provide input over a wide range of campus issues that intersect with Title IX, like Public Safety, the Dean’s Office, or the fraternities.
“Working with Bindu has been good so far, and I am hopeful — I am sure that she will do whatever is in her capacity to advance what we are trying to do — and I think that we are on the same page on a lot of things,” said Goldberg. “However, I do think that that has to be paired with the administration’s allowing her to have serious input on serious issues on campus, especially as it relates to other institutions.”
In the meantime, O4S has been directly addressing such issues themselves with corresponding organizations, rather than doing so through the Title IX Office.
One of O4S’ current initiatives this semester has been working with leaders of the ICC and BCC coalitions regarding the external review of Public Safety from last spring. O4S members were concerned about the scope of the review, consultants’ methodology, timing and publicization of the forum, and their own personal experiences with Public Safety.
“We’ve organized a lot of people from groups in the ICC and BCC to voice their concerns about [the review]; together we’ve been discussing our own experiences,” said Balisanyuka-Smith.
O4S’ most public work this spring has been their putting posters up in Parrish for the first few weeks of the semester in an effort to meet with Val Smith and discuss the demands not yet fulfilled.
Despite O4S’ flyering efforts, President Smith did not meet with organization outside of her office hours, which O4S attended. According to Goldberg, however, the fifteen-minute office hours meeting was not effective.
O4S is also embarking on new projects with SGO and Swarthmore Queer Union regarding the review of fraternity life and the expansion of resources for LGBTQ-identifying and other students, respectively.
“The [SQU-O4S] collaboration is [about], ‘let’s use this [meeting] time to talk about O4S and how O4S can engage with different student groups in a better way,’ “And just [to] give people the space and time to talk about what their needs are, and then talk about their opinion of O4S and what gap they see O4S filling on campus,” Maya Henry ’20, president of Swarthmore Queer Union said.
O4S announced on Wednesday that they will be re-releasing their demands later this month.