An overview of 2014-15 University policy changes

Administration implements new sexual misconduct policy, FOA agreement, safety measures

Throughout the 2014-15 academic year, the University has undergone several major policy transformations, most notably in protocol for adjudicating sexual assault, regulating of Greek Life and enforcing safety on Grounds.

Interim sexual assault policy

In March, the University adopted a newly revised set of policies and procedures for dealing with sexual assault in the University community. Among the revisions to the University's procedures for cases of sexual assault, the reforms provide for greater confidentiality required during the Sexual Misconduct Board's hearing process, a differentiation between sexual assault and sexual misconduct, a clearly defined role for effective consent and more severe consequences for sexual assault assailants, SMB Chair Shamim Sisson said.

"The new procedures spell out more clearly the way in which confidentiality needs to be maintained in the process," Sisson said. “[They] are a clear response to the student concern that the required confidentiality may have been overboard and an abridgement of their right.”

The new policy also draws a distinction between “sexual assault” and a slightly less severe offence, “sexual misconduct.” Claire Kaplan, director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services, said this differentiation will theoretically encourage more victims to come forward and seek help.

"This will open the door for some people who don't think their situation rises to the severity of sexual assault," Kaplan said.

Under the new policy, the SMB has more clearly defined the term "effective consent" to mean that any sexual encounter in which there is an absence of effective consent constitutes sexual assault.

The revised policy will make sanctions against convicted sexual assailants more severe, Sisson said. If an SMB panel finds a student guilty of sexual assault after a hearing, the panel will immediately consider suspension or expulsion and will be held responsible for a written explanation for the decision.

A separate document released with the newly-revised procedures contains a set of operating principles, which includes the suggestion to create a permanent sexual assault advisory committee, composed of faculty and staff, as well as students. The spirit of the committee is to provide the University with an avenue for ongoing, proactive change in sexual assault prevention.

FOA agreement

In an attempt to create a safer environment within Greek life, the University required all fraternities to sign new Fraternal Organization Agreements in order to lift the suspension on Greek social activities that was first enacted on Nov. 22. The suspension was a response to gang rape accusations made in a Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article, which was later retracted.

The agreement stipulates each fraternity and sorority organization must sign the FOA addenda, which seeks to establish a “baseline of safety.” Although each of the four Greek organizations — the Inter-Fraternity Council, Inter-Sorority Council, Multicultural Greek Council and National Panhellenic Greek Council — designed its own regulations, which Sullivan reviewed and approved, the most extensive changes were made to policies for fraternities governed by the Inter-Fraternity Council.

The IFC FOA addendum includes a host of new regulations for all fraternity functions — including mandated sober brothers at each drink station, a sober brother positioned at the stairs with key access to upstairs rooms, regulations on the types of alcohol offered and the manner in which it is served and requiring guest lists for all functions. Additionally, each function must now provide access to bottled water and food. The addendum explicitly forbids “pre-mixed drinks and punches.”

“We seek to achieve a safe environment at fraternity events by addressing high-risk drinking, sexual misconduct, and unhealthy power structures,” the IFC addenda reads. “These changes are not comprehensive — nor do they claim to be. Instead, we submit these reforms as the next step in the IFC’s commitment to guaranteeing a baseline of safety for fraternity members and our guests.”

Although some fraternities initially expressed a sense of reservation in signing the agreement, namely Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Alpha Order, all members of the Inter-Fraternity Council agreed to sign the addendum.

The Inter-Sorority Council FOA addendum calls for chapter presidents to discuss risk management strategies and be trained in bystander intervention, survivor support and alcohol safety.

“We have reviewed the Fraternal Organization Agreement and identified areas that need improvement and clearer definition specifically for the ISC, and we acknowledge the importance of effective risk management and education, especially for New Members,” the ISC addendum reads.

Additionally, all ISC sororities must unofficially register mixers with the Vice President of Judiciary, in order to receive support and guidance. Failure to register will result in non-punitive actions, and “the VPJ cannot guarantee that a violation will not be reported or investigated.”

Because MGC chapters lack official houses off Grounds, all events are held at third-party vendors or on-Grounds venues, which automatically include increased security. As such, the greatest changes made by the MGC addendum is to the new member education process, rather than social events.

Moving forward, chapters will be required to provide both the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Multicultural Greek Council president an outline of goals for new member education processes. The memorandum also states that the Council will provide each chapter resources for educating all prospective members on hazing, and will require all to sign a written statement of understanding after reading the materials.

Before new member education processes can begin, new member educators must have attended at least one hazing educational program, and new member educators and respective chapter presidents must meet with the OFSL Council coordinator to discuss safety recommendations, the memorandum states.

In conjunction with the FOA addendums, the University’s National Panhellenic Council released a Regulations and Policy Guidance Manual, detailing official regulations and governing policy guidelines with regard to alcohol, hazing and risk management.

“We didn’t what to solely base our reform on sexual assault,” fourth-year Batten student and NPHC President Julian Jackson said. “What we wanted to address was the entire issue of student safety and how we can better the [entire] Greek system, as well as provide a safer environment for University students.”

Safety initiatives

As a response to increasing doubts about nighttime safety at the University, on the Corner, and in surrounding areas, the University initiated a variety of new safety initiatives throughout the 2015-16 academic year, including the implementation of the new Ambassadors Program.

In January, the University contracted international security firm G4S to provide a more prevalent security presence in neighborhoods frequented by students. G4S initiated their duties at the University in early February.

Among other duties, representatives of the Ambassador Program are intended to act as a resource to students who appear to be vulnerable. All representatives of the Ambassadors program are unarmed.

Additionally, a new police substation on the Corner opened Jan. 15 in an effort to increase law enforcement presence in the area. The temporary substation, housed in a grey pod building, is located across from the Corner and next to the University Women’s Center.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said the substation will provide increased visibility and a greater concentration of resources to help keep the Corner safe.

“The primary objective is to create and sustain a safe environment,” Longo said. “There are no specific issues or problems that we are seeking to impact other than to reduce the likelihood of criminal activity and disorderly behavior that oftentimes results from alcohol consumption and poor judgment.”

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