Issues of Title IX compliance and trends of sexual assault on college campuses have become a top priority for many universities around the country. In recent years, students at the University of Redlands have spoken up about their perceptions of the University’s Title IX policies and who those policies seem to protect. While the University has revamped the Title IX website in attempt to make their policies more transparent and accessible, some confusion remains.
When a report is made and the complainant decides to proceed with an internal investigation through the University, the investigators begin to interview all parties involved including witnesses. Once their investigation is complete, they submit a report with recommendations of whether or not anyone is found responsible, and with suggested disciplinary action if any. That report then goes to a decision maker (or a review board, if this route is agreed on by both the complainant and the respondent). This decision maker may choose to take the recommendations from the investigators or may make a different decision in terms of the responsibility and/or sanctions. This decision may be appealed to the Provost and again to the President. Decisions made by the President are final.
The University uses a hierarchal system featuring a Title IX Coordinator who oversees Deputy Coordinators and then investigators. Patricia “Pat” Caudle, Controller and Director of Financial Operations, currently serves as the University’s Title IX Coordinator. Her key responsibilities are to oversee the University’s responses to Title IX reports, ensure the safety of the student body by addressing any patterns in the reports, making certain the University follows Title IX policy and to manage Title IX education, training and research.
Although Caudle’s main position at the University is in accounting, she says that she was appointed by the President to fulfill the role of Title IX Coordinator based on her ability to “be neutral and be someone who has good relationships across campus and someone who has strong administrative abilities to coordinate.”
To summarize her role in the Title IX process, Caudle says “the role of the Title IX coordinator is to ensure that all the pieces of the process are properly being done in a fair and equitable way across all constituents – students, employees, both sides, the people who might be making the complaints and the accused – that all their rights and concerns are being addressed.”
Currently, everyone on the Title IX team has another on-campus role. Underneath Caudle are the three Deputy Coordinators. Sharyl Bouskill in Human Resources oversees cases involving University employees; Amy Wilms in Academic Success and Disability Services is in charge of College of Arts and Science (CAS) students; and Bruce Rawding in the School of Business addresses cases arising in the graduate schools.
Next are the investigators. These are administrators from across campus, namely Student Life and Residence Life, selected to do the actual investigation portion of Title IX reports. This group attends both internal and external education workshops, and meets monthly to discuss their different experiences and learn from one another. In addition, they are required to stay in-the-know about Title IX related news and policies happening around the country.
The investigators are tasked with determining the role alcohol played in each Title IX reports. To do so, Caudle stated that they rely on witnesses to speak to “the person’s behavior, speech, ability to walk so we can come to a conclusion about verifiable signs of intoxication to the point of being incapacitated. If it is at the point of incapacitation, then consent would not have been given. You can be intoxicated and slightly drunk and still have the capacity to give consent.”
Caudle stated that in some cases they have been able to use security camera footage to prove incapacitation versus intoxication.
“It definitely is one area that we need to do more education on because we hear back … such a variety of student understandings of incapacitation, intoxication, affirmative consent that it indicates to me that we are still not clear in helping educate them in the differences,” Caudle explains.
Complainants have agency in instructing the University with what to do with their report. They can choose to either have the University take no action, to investigate the complaint and deliver sanctions if the respondent is deemed responsible or to get the police involved. While some students passionate about ending sexual assault on campus object to the flexibility of how a case is tried, it is not uncommon. Rayla Allison, Title IX expert from University of Minnesota, explained that the reason why some universities have this policy is to keep the complainant comfortable with the investigation. As such, they provide them with so the option as to where the case will be tried.
“If the victim were to go to the police department, that would be under the criminal statute of the state, pursued under criminal statute. Some institutions, will have a cross filing if the victim wants to do that,” Allison said. “Some victims of rape may not want to come forward because they want it to be over. It is up to the victim as to which way they go.”
This system can, however, become an issue when institutions – such as the Baylor scandal – discourage complainants from going outside the University or even from pursuing an internal investigation.
The one caveat to the complainant choosing this path is that “if the University feels like there is a danger to community or possibility of some part of the situation that sounds like others might be at risk, even if that person does not want to proceed to investigation or more publicly engaged format, the University can choose to still continue even if that person doesn’t want to participate,” Caudle stated.
Examples of what the University deems as a danger to the community doesn’t necessarily just include general instances of rape, but also cases where the same person might be involved multiple times, if someone was seriously physically injured during the assault or if there was an incident involving a date-rape drug or similar substances.
Caudle stated there is no standard for “whether we deal with the second, or third, or fourth offense in a different level of sanctioning.”
This is up to the discretion of the decision makers and Caudle’s discretion.
Students that hold positions as Community Assistants and Community Directors exist in a grey area of being both students and employees of the University.
“The fundamental process will not change for employees [that have reports filed against them] because it’s a standard, consistent process regardless of who the individuals are,” Caudle explained. “There might be different interim measures that might go into place when employees are involved. You might have a situation where the employee might have to go on administrative leave if that’s warranted, or have their duties changed depending on their circumstances. CAs and the Residence Life staff are treated as employees if the incident involved them acting in their role as an employee. Sometimes things happen in their life as a student and in that case, their employment status may or may not be changed. Most likely there would be some change while the investigation is taking place,” said Caudle.
Andrew S. Boutros, National Co-Chair of the White Collar, Internal Investigations, and False Claims Act Team at Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Task Force on College Due Process Rights and Victim Protection said that these situations are often very complicated.
“There may be cases where a school needs to potentially take extra precautions to ensure that there is no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. This may be the case when the victim is alleging misconduct by a faculty member or employee of the university,” Boutros said.
Caudle said the University is “moving next fiscal year with hiring a full-time Deputy Title IX Coordinator, which will be someone dedicated to that job and won’t have another assignment.”
This new hire will allow the person fulfilling the role to dedicate their full time and attention to Title IX and may alleviate concerns about confidentiality and maintaining an unbiased investigation process with a school as small as Redlands and with each of the people involved in the investigation working on campus.
As the process currently exists, there is no direct student representation in the construction and analysis of Title IX policies. Caudle said that she has not met with ASUR Cabinet nor the President, although she is open to doing so. She went on to say that with the new full-time Deputy, she has plans to “increase the interactions with students and student organizations.”
Caudle claimed that the University’s increasing trend in Title IX reports is due to “awareness that this topic is more in the news, more in discussions, it’s been more publicly discussed and it comes out of our internal Redlands education efforts so the work we do with incoming students, the work we do with returning students, has helped with students feeling comfortable in reporting, so reporting is up.”
In thinking about Title IX transparency, Caudle stated that the University is researching how best to distribute a Title IX report to the campus community. This report, which details Title IX trends and results, will be available by the Fall. The current evaluation system, the Clery report, is limited to on-campus incidents only.
While Title IX conversations often focus on policies related to sanctions, prevention is another large piece of Caudle’s position.
“Prevention [is] achieved by having more discussion on campus, so awareness is raised to the nature of these incidents and what happens, and what the processes are. [To help] Incoming CAS students go through mandatory online training and mandatory sessions during orientation which talk about things like consent, incapacitation, intoxication and how they relate to incidents that might be involved in a Title IX report. Once the student is here, we really rely on those conversations. Leela is our lead Title IX educator, so she will lead various topics throughout the year and various events throughout the year that will lead the community in discussions… This is an area that certainly can be expanded and we’re working on ideas to do that, ideas of engaging current students in conversations because students might receive that formal education when they first get to campus, but if they’re not a part of these discussions… we may not be touching them as often. We are in the process of evaluating how we might bring educational materials on a more consistent basis to returning students to keep the topic alive and the conversation going. I think the other piece that important in education is for it to be peer-to-peer, so now we’re working with a group of students through Leela’s office that can address their other students. Students will listen more to their own classmates more than they will listen to a trainer or a speaker we bring to campus. If someone can share their views and share their experiences, then I think that’s a [better] way for people to engage in conversation,” Caudle stated.
The area of prevention and fostering positive dialogue is where Caudle sees a potential relationship with ASUR. Caudle also shared that Title IX training similar to that required of Greek members will be implemented for athletes in the upcoming year.
Caudle says that while she understands some people may be uncomfortable or unwilling to make reports, she likes hearing them because it allows her to “take corrective actions, whether it’s more education, certain amount of policy changes … it allows us to make environments that are better for people in the future.”
photo contributed by Halie West, Redlands Bulldog Photographer