Madeline Wilson ’16 and the the gray shirt team, who wore shirts reading “Ask me how my college is protecting my rap- ist” for two months last year, graduated in May after turning their shirts into honor cords. Yet their legacy remains and the conversation that they opened around sexual assault at St. Olaf continues today.
The Title IX Working Group formed by President David Anderson ’74 met from May 5 to May 26 to review St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies, listen to students and experts and make recommendations for change. The group’s goal was to gather information, collect data and analyze everything it learned in order to write a report commissioned by Anderson. During these meetings, the group spoke to representatives from the gray shirt team, Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN), Gay Lesbian Or Whatever (GLOW), It’s On Us, College Ministry, Boe House, domestic abuse treatment facility HOPE Center, the Northfield Police Department and individuals who have reported sexual assaults through the college. The report was drafted during the summer.
The 116-page Working Group report and an eight-page ex- ecutive summary were released on July 14, along with a state- ment by group chair Tim Maudlin ’73.
“St. Olaf is a community of diverse beliefs and ideas, and we have heard many and varied perspectives through this process,” Maudlin wrote. “We expect that there may be many responses to the Working Group’s deliberations and recommendations. Some may feel that we have gone too far; some, not far enough. In reality, there are many ‘right’ ways to respond. Our goal was to find the right way for St. Olaf to respond.”
Soon afterward, Anderson also released a statement an- nouncing that the group’s recommendations would soon be
implemented and the college would be held accountable to do so by the Board of Regents.
“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Title IX Working Group for the commitment and diligence they brought to this task, for the care they display throughout their report for the welfare of our students and for the research-based and reasoned approach they took to a difficult and emotionally fraught topic,” Anderson said. “There is no place for sexual mis- conduct or sexual assault at St. Olaf College. We are determined to prevent them from occurring, to stop them if they do occur and to ameliorate their effects.”
The report is broken into ten categories: Title IX team and leadership, policy revisions, reporting and intake process, complaint resolution process, sanctioning in Title IX cases, ac- countability for policy implementation and revision, inclusivity and accessibility of the Title IX policy, availability and quality of support services, training for the Title IX team and St. Olaf community and ensuring adequate communication and trans- parency in the Title IX process. Suggestions include an annual review of the Title IX policy, the hiring of a full-time Title IX case manager “to assume intake responsibilities and case man- agement of Title IX matters,” the usage of an affirmative consent definition and the formation of a Title IX advisory group.
When students returned to campus this fall, the effects of many of the report’s suggestions were obvious. Physical cop- ies of a Title IX Quick Guide, including links to the college’s Title IX webpage, contact information for the Title IX team and other sources of support were posted on every student’s desk. The Ole Student Portal and St. Olaf homepage feature links to the Title IX page and information about the training of Title IX team members is now public knowledge.
The college has also implemented many new changes behind the scenes to reform the way sexual assault is handled at St.
Olaf, according to a progress report posted on the Title IX page. This development includes three new hires. Kari Ogrodowski, most recently a staffer with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, now holds the position of Title IX case man- ager and began her work on September 19. The HOPE Center is now contracted with SARN to provide professional coordina- tion services. Finally, Area Coordinator of Ytterboe and Hoyme Halls Sarah Joslyn will now serve as Gender and Sexuality Co- ordinator, a ten-hour-per-week position. Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell will now serve as an adjudicative panel during complaint resolution rather than a single adjudicator, and a new policy about affirmative consent is under development. Many policies are also under review or be- ing created, such as the complaint resolution process and a pro- tocol for communication with complainants and respondents. New policy material to improve understanding of affirmative consent is under development.
According to the administration progress report, every working group suggestion has been completed, initiated or scheduled for change. Right now, short-term changes have fo- cused on publicizing Title IX policies and the ways team mem- bers can help the campus community.
As the 2016-2017 school year progresses, the St. Olaf com- munity will continue to evaluate how the changes make the Ti- tle IX reporting process easier, reduce the rates of sexual assault and ensure transparency in Title IX policy.
To continue following the progress report, learn more about St. Olaf ’s Title IX policy or read the full working group report, visit St. Olaf’s “Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Sexual Assault: College Policy and Resources for Prevention and Support” page at http://wp.stolaf.edu/title-ix/.