Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Task Force

Executive Summary of the Findings and Recommendations from the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Task Force

June 2, 2021

On this page:

Members of the Task Force

Anne S. Douds, Chair and Assistant Professor, Public Policy; Amanda Blaugher, Title IX Coordinator; Christopher Bloom Ford, Assistant Director of Career Engagement; Jennifer Bloomquist, Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies; Diane Brennan, Academic Administrative Assistant; Carol Cantele, Head Coach, Women’s Lacrosse Team; Daisy Chebbet, Staff Psychologist; Vernon Cisney, Associate Professor, interdisciplinary Studies; Allison Dayton, First Year Student; Nathifa Greene, Assistant Professor, Philosophy; Scott Hancock, Associate Professor History; Sydney Kaplan, Junior Year Student and Co-President of Students Against Sexual Assault; Justin Letizia, Senior Year Student; Emma Love, Co-Founder of Survivors of Gettysburg and Junior Year Student; Gretchen Natter, Assistant Dean of College Life, Center for Public Service; Mark Sieber, Junior Year Student and President of Interfraternity Council; Adriana Quinonez Solano, First Year Student; Camille Traczek, Junior Year Student and Co-President of Students Against Sexual Assault; Kyra Van Dyke, Senior Year Student; Grace Verbrugge, Co-Founder of Survivors of Gettysburg and Junior Year Student.

Executive Summary Prepared By: Anne S. Douds, Alecea Standlee, Sydney Kaplan, Christopher Bloom Ford, Justin Letizia, and Kyra Van Dyke.

Background

President Robert Iuliano initiated plans for the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Task Force (Task Force) in March 2020. The Task Force was formally announced to the Gettysburg College community in a campus communication shared on December 14, 2020, charged as follows:

  1. To assess ways to reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct in the Gettysburg College community;
  2. To improve campus climate and campus awareness concerning sexual misconduct;
  3. To enhance the support provided to survivors of sexual misconduct;
  4. To ensure that College processes are procedurally fair, equitable, and as timely as possible; and
  5. To confirm Gettysburg’s compliance with state and federal law.

The Task Force commenced work on charges one through four with an initial meeting in December 2020, followed by development of six subgroups: 1) Awareness and Education, (2) Prevention, (3) Services (On & Off Campus), (4) Web-Based Services, (5) Formal and Informal Processes, and (6) Restorative Practices. The Task Force met throughout the spring 2021 semester. The Executive Summary sets forth the Task Force’s top five priorities for a first round of reform.

Summary of Methods

The Task Force met monthly throughout winter 2020 and spring 2021. Subgroups met weekly or bi-weekly. A great deal of the subgroups’ work was done asynchronously then shared during meetings. Subgroups reported short-term, intermediate term, and eventual long-term goals for their specific objectives to the group-at-large. The Task Force includes these reports and other materials as appendices to share how the Task Force’s thinking evolved.

The Task Force undertook the following approaches to investigation: (a) surveys and focus group research; (b) research on evidence-based best practices from colleges and universities across the nation; (c) systematic reviews of literature on key concepts; (d) individual small-group interviews with students and staff upon request; (e) receipt and review of capstone and CAFÉ papers prepared by students on relevant topics, included in the Appendices; and (g) table top exercises with Public Policy capstone students; and (h) internal, small group discussions. These methods will be explained more fully in the forthcoming final report.

Additionally, a Student Research Team (SRT), directed by Anne S. Douds, and a Field Research Team (FRT) directed by Alecea Standlee, conducted research throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. The SRT created an annotated bibliography, which ultimately produced the forty-five-page anthology entitled Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses: An Annotated Research Guide (Appendix C). The FRT’s final report will be released in August 2021, and it will include descriptive statistics.

Dr. Douds also created a Student Advisory Committee (SAC) to work alongside the Task Force, and they met periodically to provide student insight on each of the subgroup areas. The SAC was designed to provide students with an off-the-record space to discuss their perspectives on issues of sexual misconduct and violence. The SAC disbanded due to internal conflicts among students, but some members of the SAC then began to work with the Task Force subgroups directly.

The following findings and recommendations are the first stage of what the Task Force hopes will be a recurring undertaking whereby Gettysburg College periodically evaluates and revises policies, practices, and procedures to improve Gettysburg College’s safety, climate, and community.

Key Findings and Recommendations

Each subgroup developed their own findings independently and provided their own analysis of the College’s current policies and practices, and significant overlap among the subgroups’ findings and recommendations emerged. Because the Task Force hopes that the Administration will begin work on its recommendations during summer 2021, the Task Force offers this Executive Summary with the most pressing findings and recommendations identified by the Task Force. A comprehensive report on the research underlying these findings and recommendations, plus some additional insights, will be delivered in August or September 2021.

1. Create a New Victim Services Coordinator Position, Completely Separate from the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX.

  1. Findings:
    1. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that students and faculty regularly seek victim advocacy services from the Title IX Director.
    2. All research conducted by the Task Force revealed significant confusion about the role of the Title IX Director. The Task Force has found that most members of the community – most notably students – do not understand the role or scope of responsibilities of the Title IX Director. According to focus group data, many students are under the impression that the Title IX Director’s main role is to serve as a victim services advocate. Director.
    3. The majority of FRT research participants did not feel that there is sufficient guidance offered to them when incidents of sexual misconduct and violence occur. Upon further examination, this finding appears to arise from students’ misunderstandings, as previously touched upon above, of the role of the Title IX Director. Many also do not understand what “process” means in the context of Title IX.
    4. All FRT research respondents who self-identified as having been victimized and having sought services perceived that the Title IX Director is responsible for victim advocacy throughout the continuum of events surrounding a report of sexual misconduct.
    5. Interviews, focus groups, and listening sessions revealed that students are not comfortable with outsourcing of this position to local non-profit or faith-based entities. All respondents who chose to engage on this point said that they would much prefer to have someone “who is part of the College” help them navigate their access to services and potential connection with a victim advocate.
    6. There are several potential models for this position (see e.g., Appendix I, J, K, and M).
  2. Recommendations:
    1. The Task Force recommends that the College create a Victim Services Coordinator position whose entire focus would revolve around resources and services for survivors, victims, allies, and advocates.

2. Revise Web-Based and Printed Communications from the Title IX and Sexual Respect Office to Make Them Trauma-Informed, Targeted, Direct, and Readily Accessible.

  1. Findings:
    1. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students, faculty, staff, and administrators feel that the language and presentation of information regarding Gettysburg College Title IX policy; information about resources and services for survivors and victims; and processes for accessing resources and services on the website are vague, inaccessible, and not written from a trauma-informed perspective.
    2. The FRT and some members of the Task Force gathered that some students, faculty, staff, and administrators are confused by the language and presentation of information detailing the role of the Title IX Director.
    3. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students, faculty, staff, and administrators are confused by the language and presentation of information about Title IX laws, policies, and processes.
    4. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some faculty and staff report that they rely upon the Title IX Office to refer victims to services and resources, but they do not understand the legal and policy parameters of the Title IX office
    5. Public Policy capstone students undertook six tabletop exercises examining websites and printed materials and found that the language and presentation are intimidating, inaccessible, and crowded (Appendix N).
    6. The reading level for website materials is too high; evidence indicates that people in trauma need more direct, simple language.
  2. Recommendations:
    1. The Task Force recommends that all web-based and printed materials provided by the Title IX and Sexual Respect Office be revised by an expert in web-based communication.
    2. The Task Force recommends that all web-based and printed materials provided by the Title IX and Sexual Respect Office be reviewed by an expert in trauma-informed communication.
    3. The Task Force recommends that all web-based and printed materials provided by the Title IX and Sexual Respect Office be reviewed by a committee of volunteer students.
    4. The Task Force recommends the Administration develop mobile apps complementary to these websites (Appendix F).

3. Create Apps and a Separate Website for Survivors, Victims, Allies and Advocates and Create a Separate Website for Persons Accused of Sexual Misconduct and Violence.

  1. Findings:
    1. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students and faculty would appreciate and benefit from creation of separate websites that focus on these populations.
    2. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students, faculty, and staff often do not know where and how to look for resources and assistance.
    3. The FRT and the Task Force have found that some students, faculty, and staff often feel “overwhelmed,” “confused,” and “like [their] eyes are swimming” when looking at the current websites related to Title IX and Sexual Respect (see e.g., Appendices N and P).
    4. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students feel deterred from seeking assistance and from reporting by the complexity of the websites.
    5. The SRT and some members of the Task Force examined websites of various other colleges and universities to investigate how to make Gettysburg College’s website more sustainable and trauma-informed. Likewise, the SRT and some members of the Task Force reviewed web-based resources for persons accused of sexual misconduct or subject to sexual misconduct allegations. The Task Force found the exploration of peer schools’ methods of reporting, modes of support, and website design to be of great value in assessing what changes should be made to Gettysburg College’s website (Appendix Q).
  2. Recommendations:
    1. Building upon Recommendation Number Two above, the Task Force recommends that the Administration support and maintain a student-and service-focused, stand-alone website that provides easily accessible points of contact, resources, and references for survivors and victims and those who support them (allies and advocates) see e.g., Appendix P).
    2. The Task Force recommends that the Administration maintain a student-centered and services-centered, stand-alone website that provides easily accessible points of contact, resources, and references for persons subject to sexual misconduct and violence allegations.
    3. The Task Force recommend that these websites be developed in an evidence-based, trauma-informed fashion, as well as separately from the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX website. (See e.g., Appendices B, H, and K).
    4. The Task Force recommend that magnets and glass clings be created and disseminated throughout campus, and especially in all restrooms, containing QR codes linked to the new websites mentioned in the above recommendations.
    5. The Task Force recommends the Administration develop mobile apps complementary to these websites (Appendix F).

4. Create and Maintain Neutral Spaces Across Campus for Socializing During Nights and Weekends.

  1. Findings:
    1. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that there is a strong sense among students that there is a gender-based power imbalance present in social spaces on campus, particularly due to the fraternity-centric nature of campus social life. Many students have acknowledged feeling that men and non-male-identifying students are subject to inequitable levels of social support at Gettysburg College.
    2. The SRT and some members of the Task Force examined research on ecological criminology, which indicates that gendered power imbalances, whether real or perceived, can increase the risk of – and incidents of – sexual misconduct and violence.
    3. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students felt strongly that they would like to hold discussions with the Administration about short- and long-term plans for developing these kinds of spaces.
  2. Recommendations:
    1. The Task Force recommends that the Administration explore numerous options and avenues for creating additional spaces for socializing on weekends and evenings that are not controlled by fraternities.
    2. The Task Force recommends that the Administration schedule listening sessions a broad array of student groups to explore these issues during academic year 2021-2022.
    3. The Task Force recommends that the Administration develop a plan to respond to information learned during the listening sessions during summer 2022.

5. Revise Education and Training Efforts to Be More Targeted, User-Oriented, and Trauma-Informed.

  1. Findings:
    1. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some faculty do not know what to do or who to contact when a student discloses an incident of sexual misconduct.
    2. Relatedly, the FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some faculty do not know what to do or who to contact when a student discloses but does not wish to report the incident.
    3. As mentioned previously, the FRT and some members of the Task Force found pervasive misunderstandings among students and College employees about the role and responsibilities of the Title IX Director.
    4. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that students perceive that the effectiveness of their initial training during first-year programming during Orientation wanes over time. They perceive that the frequency and comprehensiveness of training decreases throughout their time at Gettysburg, and many students expressed interest in more frequent education, tailored to their progression through school.
    5. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that students perceive that more thematic and progressive programming would be helpful. For example, education on workplace issues would be helpful during junior or senior years as students undertake internships and jobs.
  2. Recommendations:
    1. The Task Force recommends that the people in the Administration responsible for education and awareness programming consult with a group of volunteer students to revise the curriculum responsive to the above findings.

Additional Matter That Arose in May 2021

6. Develop and Publish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Gettysburg Police Department (GPD) and the Adams County District Attorney’s Office about the Interface of Title IX and Criminal Justice Proceedings.

  1. Findings:
    1. Recent reporting on the Shannon Keeler case suggests that, in the past, there have been problems inherent to the way campus-based assaults are handled by Adams County criminal justice officials.
    2. Some members of the Task Force received disturbing reports of mishandling of matters by at least one GPD officer.
    3. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that most students, faculty, staff, and administration do not understand the legal and policy matters surrounding Title IX cases and criminal justice cases.
    4. The FRT and some members of the Task Force found that some students, perceive that the GPD and the criminal justice system lack transparency in their handling of criminal cases that arise on campus.
  2. Recommendations:
    1. The Task Force recommends that the Administration develop an MOU to document the relationships among the College and criminal justice entities when criminal cases arise on campus.
    2. If other relevant entities will not engage in an MOU, then the Task Force recommends that the Administration publish a memorandum to the College community explaining the relationships among the College and the criminal justice system when criminal cases arise on campus.
    3. The Task Force recommends that the Administration educate the College community on these matters