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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Code of Conduct updates sexual assault component

Published: October 3, 2014
Section: News

In an email sent out to all students last Friday, Sept. 26, Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, alerted students to updates to both the Office of Student Rights and Community Standards and the Office of Sexual Assault and Prevention. The changes, which included the new Code of Conduct and the transition in director of the Office of Student Rights and Community Standards, come at a time when concerns about the handling of sexual assault have become more pressing.

The university’s Code of Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities has been updated for the 2014-2015 school year. Included in the new version are definitions of consent and the statement that “policies regarding sexual misconduct emphasize sexual sovereignty, personal accountability, as well as recognition of the impact of one’s behavior on others. All members of our community have the right to be free from sexual misconduct.”

Flagel wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot about the specific mechanisms of creating this type of change.

“Changing a community requires a wide variety of efforts, of which the Code of Conduct document is just one,” Flagel wrote. “I feel the updated Code of Conduct makes the process and outcomes more transparent.”

He also wrote about what the implications might be from of the updated version of the Code of Conduct.

“I don’t believe the changes in sanctions are likely to change any decisions, but the updated version makes very clear that students found responsible of non-consensual intercourse involving physical force, threat or purposeful incapacitation will be removed from Brandeis,” wrote Flagel.

The Office of Prevention Services will be appointing an interim director to take the place of Sheila McMahon, who is taking a temporary academic leave to finish her doctoral program. McMahon began working at Brandeis in Nov. 2013 and will be returning to the Office of Prevention Services on Dec. 15. During the interim period, Flagel announced, Lisa Hardej will be available to meet with students in McMahon’s absence. Hardej is currently a class-based academic advisor in Academic Services, and holds a master’s degree in counseling.

“We continue to search actively for an appropriately experienced and credentialed interim appointment for Sheila’s position,” wrote Flagel in a university-wide email. “In the mean time we will use a team approach—utilizing point people for the different areas of responsibility—to ensure uninterrupted services.”

Another effort by the university to prevent sexual assault and help students who have been sexually assaulted is the addition of the Rape Crisis Center (RCC). Though a Sept. 4 Boston Globe article falsely claimed that the RCC has already opened, the center is predicted to open by the end of the semester and will be student-run. The University hired Dr. Kristin Huang to give advice to the Rape Crisis Center volunteers as well as working as a clinical staff member in the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC).

Flagel’s email to students included a reminder about the Bystander Intervention Program at the University. The Bystander Intervention Program is run by Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) and aims to train students to intervene in potentially dangerous situations. 50 Brandeis students received bystander intervention training in the spring of 2014.

Brandeis is currently under investigation by the federal government for noncompliance with Title IX, a law that requires that students be able to receive educations free of sexual harassment. The university, along with 75 other colleges and universities, is being investigated by the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR). Sexual assault is becoming a pressing issue for the nation as supported by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault created in January.

President Fred Lawrence stated his opinion in a letter to The Brandeis Hoot on Sept. 11.

“Let me be clear—compliance with Title IX is a necessity, but it is by no means sufficient. Brandeis must and will be a leader in combating sexual violence,” wrote Lawrence.

The new initiatives and policies will continue to be implemented as the academic year progresses. Information about the RCC, bystander intervention training and the Office of Prevention Services can be found on the university’s website.