This semester, Ramapo has rolled out a new investigation process for sexual misconduct cases, a move that is in line with the college’s recent reevaluation of its sexual assault policies and procedures.
In August 2015 Ramapo College released “Ramapo: Advance,” a strategic plan to advance campus safety. This plan announced an overhaul in the way sexual misconduct is reported and investigated. New policies related to sexual assault and misconduct are now in place as of Jan. 18. Kat McGee, Ramapo’s director of affirmative action and workplace compliance and Title IX Coordinator, held an open forum on Wednesday to explain and discuss the new Sexual Misconduct Policy Governing Students.
Previously, cases of sexual misconduct would go before a judicial hearing board. This hearing board, while still in place for other violations of the student Code of Conduct, has been replaced in favor of a separate investigation structure for sexual misconduct cases.
“We’re looking at a Title IX Civil Rights Investigation model here now,” McGee said at the forum. “This is the best practice that has been recommended to us by the experts in the field who came to Ramapo to consult in this area, and it's a model that we’re seeing across the country as one of the best practices for investigating this.”
In this new system, each case of sexual misconduct is assigned to a trained Title IX investigator who will collect evidence and information from all involved parties. The collected information is put into a report and given to the deputy Title IX coordinator and shared with both parties before a decision is made.
Grace Maute, a sophomore, said that she thought this was a better process than the hearing boards because “there are students who sit on the judicial boards and they’re the ones making decisions about the case, and it would be awkward to see them around campus.”
In addition to this change, there are also several smaller changes in the policy. One of these is a new addition to the definition of prohibited sexual misconduct. Sexual exploitation has been added to the list that also includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, retaliation, stalking and dating violence. According to Ramapo’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, sexual exploitation, “occurs when a person takes advantage of another without that individual’s consent for the initiator’s own advantage or benefit or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses.”
The section of the Sexual Misconduct Policy regarding witnesses allowing others to take advantage of an incapacitated person stood out to several students. Students are encouraged to be active bystanders and step in when they see problematic signs. Some ways to be an effective active bystander that are suggested in the policy include confronting people who “seclude, hit on, attempt to make out with or have sex with” incapacitated people, speak up when one sees or hears sexual misconduct or the threat thereof and being an advocate for those who disclose sexual assault.
The new policy also places more stress on the concept of affirmative consent.
“It’s not just 'no means no,'” McGee said. “It’s not enough that somebody is silent or is passive throughout sexual activity. You have to make sure that everyone is enthusiastically and affirmatively consenting.”
There has also been a change in the way misconduct can be reported. There is now a form available online, accessible through Public Safety’s website, that allows anyone to report an incident anonymously. Even a vague statement can be helpful in the long run, as McGee said if she sees a trend, she can take preventive measures.
“This policy is not exclusively about after something has already been reported,” she went on to say. “It's about looking at our campus community, climate and culture overall.”