Georgia State’s revised sexual misconduct policy

On Aug. 8, the Board of Regents released the new policy for sexual misconduct for institutions under the University System of Georgia (USG).

Georgia State Title IX coordinators will have a more direct reporting relationship with the university’s president or his designee and the USG System Director for Equity and Investigations otherwise known as the System Director. Title IX is the office that deals with sexual assault on campus.

Darryl Holloman, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said this closely resembles how he and other Title IX coordinators at Georgia State already handle reports of sexual misconduct. However, other institutions handle sexual misconduct reports differently.

“The way that we have our system built is aligning even better with the way the new policies are,” Holloman said. “Some [schools] had an office of Title IX or office of sexual misconduct that reported to the Dean of Students. Most times they had a line to the president but sometimes they didn’t.”

Holloman said one notable change to the new policy is that the coordinators are required to have a tighter coordination with USG in cases of suspension and expulsion.

Sonja Roberts, Communications Specialist for the USG, said that this new policy is an effort to have USG institutions be more consistent in how each school handles sexual misconduct.

We’re working with our campuses, so that we have a system-wide policy that provides uniformity and consistency in the application of federal and state laws across all 28 of our colleges and universities,” Roberts said.

Holloman said he thinks having synchronicity across institutions would be beneficial to students, because all students would be dealt with the same way regardless of the school they come from. The new policy is also more focused on Title IX coordinators engaging in education and prevention of sexual misconduct.

“Having some level of synchronicity in [the schools’] process is going to be helpful, because students don’t just get sexually assaulted at Georgia State, they get sexually assaulted at Georgia Tech,” Holloman said. “One may be a student at Georgia State, [and] another student at Georgia Tech.”

Georgia State could do more

Brittney Keith, journalism major at Georgia State, said she formerly served as president of South Georgia State College’s student government association and that sexual misconduct was a “big deal for all campuses especially Georgia State and Georgia Tech.” Keith said Georgia State could do more in terms of informing students about sexual misconduct.

“I think the school does what it’s supposed to do, but it doesn’t go above and beyond to inform students,” Keith said. “I do think that there’s a lot of sexual misconduct that does go around campus but it’s unheard of and unknown.”

Keith said one of the reasons why a lot of sexual misconduct goes unnoticed is because some victims think that nothing substantial will be done.

Business major Chris Sananikone acknowledged that sexual assault was an issue on campus because one of the first things incoming freshmen have to do is to take a course on consent. Still, Sananikone said the university does have support programs set in place to help victims cope.

“Georgia State does offer counseling and I feel that [the counselors] should reach out to students who were [assaulted],” Sananikone said.

Title IX Coordinator and Georgia State’s Associate Vice President of Human Resources Linda Nelson said that Title IX coordinators already provide “quite a bit” of training about Title IX on the Georgia State campus between the Opportunity Development & Diversity Education Planning (ODDEP) office and the Student Affairs office.

“We are to continue to give focus to those areas of training and development for faculty, staff, students and any of our visitor on campus,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she and the other Title IX coordinators will increase additional training for responsible employees, privileged and confidential employees, all of which who are tasked with talking to complainants of sexual misconduct and reporting sexual misconduct.

Title Coordinators will continue to provide communication about Title IX through the Georgia State website, leaflets and pamphlets.

“The communication will come in written form, training form and electronic form,” Nelson said.      

New policies  

The Board of Regents (BOR) added a new division, called confidential employees of institutional employees that alleged victims can talk to in confidence. These employees will only report that an incident has occurred and provide a date, time, location, and the name of the alleged respondent, if it can be determined. No information that would personally identify the alleged victim will be reported on.

Confidential employees are bound to the same procedures that privileged employees are in the case of institutional reports, whereby they “may be required to report limited information about incidents without revealing the identities of the individuals involved to the Title IX Coordinator, consistent with their ethical and legal obligations.”  

The new policy also provided an updated definition for sexual misconduct, which is described as “unwanted behavior as dating violence, domestic violence, non-consensual sexual contact, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and stalking.”

The old policy’s definition of sexual assault, which was described as “an umbrella term referring to a range of non-consensual sexual contact, which can occur in many forms including, but not limited to, rape and sexual battery”, is no longer present in the new policy.

Another alteration is the move to have procedures for investigations, hearings, possible sanctions and appeals of sexual misconduct handled by the Section 4.6.5 of the USG’s policy of student affairs entitled Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Investigation and Disciplinary Proceedings. To this effect, student conduct procedures, regardless of the nature the misconduct will be, will be guided by Section 4.6.5.          

The new policy will go into effect in this fall semester

SIDEBAR: Key Changes to the policy

  • Title IX coordinators will focus more on prevention and education with regards to sexual misconduct and will receive ongoing training to increase their expertise in handling cases.
  • All conduct issues will be handled by the Student Conduct Policy and all conduct hearings will be conducted by experienced student conduct officers through the Office of Student Conduct.
  • Title IX coordinators will have a direct reporting partnership with both the president, the president’s designee and the University System of Georgia associate vice chancellor for legal affairs.