Title IX coordinators visit senators

On September 11, 2017, Grand Marshal Justin Etzine ’18 opened the meeting with his weekly report, stating that the hiring process for the new director of the Union is ongoing. Etzine conceded that he cannot share more about the process, except that interviews are currently being conducted. Following the GM report, the Student Senate received a presentation from Title IX Coordinators Elizabeth Brown-Goyette and Larry Hardy.

In a guided discussion, the Senate jointly conversed with the Title IX coordinators about the provisions of Rensselaer’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy including strict rules against sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. Senate members also asked questions regarding social media stalking, in which the coordinators explained that social media stalking is also a violation of RPI’s policies. The Senate discussed the specific definitions and situations regarding consent in which the legal definition was given as “words or actions that create clear permission.” Consent does not apply under the physical or mental inability to make informed, rational judgements and could be revoked at any time.

Senators also shared concerns that their constituents may not seek out help for sexual harassment, out of fear of repercussions if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In response, the Title IX coordinators stated that no individual participating in the complaint or investigation process will be subject to conduct charges based on their admission to alcohol or drug use. A person’s prior sexual activity with individuals outside of the situation at hand will also not be considered and cooperation by the victim is not required in an investigation. All victims are also entitled to bring a confidential advisor and emotional support person with them to all meetings, interviews, and proceedings. These individuals may include, but are not limited to, a roommate, legal counsel, or member of the Rensselaer staff.

The Title IX coordinators also provided statistics on sexual assault allegations at Rensselaer from February 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017. During that time, there were 11 cases on intimate partner violence, 33 cases on sexual assault, 13 cases on sexual harassment, and 8 cases on stalking, totaling 65 cases. Of the 33 cases involving sexual assault, 19 complaints, or over 57 percent of complaints involved the use of drugs or alcohol. “We are pretty sure the number is a little higher than that,” stated Brown-Goyette.

At the time of the presentation, 51 cases were closed out of 65 total cases. Of the outcomes of those cases, 43 percent had no policy violation. Of the remaining individuals, 6 were subject to expulsion, 3 were subject to suspension, 7 were subject to disciplinary probation, 3 were not applicable since they were not RPI students, and 8 received other disciplinary actions including written warnings, educational programs, or no contact orders.