Board of Curators approves Title IX procedure, committee changes

Thursday, June 19, 2014 | 9:59 p.m. CDT; updated 12:02 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 27, 2014

*This story has been updated to reflect how the university investigates sexual misconduct and how it relates to the timeline of criminal investigations.

COLUMBIA — Proposed changes to the way the University of Missouri System handles investigations of sexual assault on campus were unanimously approved Thursday.

The UM System Board of Curators voted to adopt the recommendations from the Sexual Assault and Mental Health Task Force, which was formed in January by UM System President Tim Wolfe in the wake of the 2011 death of MU student Sasha Menu Courey.

Here are some of the changes the curators made to UM's Collected Rules and Regulations student conduct chapter regarding Title IX and sexual assault:

  • The word "rape" was changed to "nonconsensual sexual intercourse." 
  • The overall category of "nonconsensual sexual behavior" was changed to "sexual misconduct," which includes nonconsensual sexual intercourse, contact or touching, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment.
  • A clear definition of "nonconsensual" was added to include any circumstance  where "the alleged victim was incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or other circumstances and, therefore, incapable of consenting."
  • Students who believe they have been discriminated against because of their sex can file a complaint directly to the Title IX coordinator. The current interim coordinator is Linda Bennett. This will now be a full-time position. 

  • *Sexual assault investigations can begin immediately, rather than being delayed until criminal proceedings are finished. Although that has always been university policy, spokesman John Fougere said, it had never been explicitly written into the rules.

Additional changes were made to the hearing process in sexual assault investigations to be more in accordance with federal regulations and make campuses safer. Those changes are:

  • Members will be appointed to the Student Conduct Committee, which will impose sanctions on students it believes have committed sexual assaults.
  • The committee will be able to consider any previous disciplinary problems in a student's past.
  • The chair of the committee will have the power to divide the members of the student conduct committee into smaller hearing panels for each case and will designate a chair for each panel. The panel must have at least five members and no more than two students. The remaining three members will be chosen from faculty and staff members on the committee.

  • The complainant and accused will be prohibited from directly questioning each other. Questions will instead be asked through the committee chair. 

A second vote was also unanimously passed by the curators, granting Wolfe temporary authority to pass executive orders relating to sexual assault or mental health until the curators' next meeting in October. These executive orders can be in conflict with, and will supersede, any current regulations. 

In April, Wolfe granted Executive Order 40, requiring all UM System employees not bound by confidentiality to report any information regarding sexual assault or harassment of a student to the Title IX coordinator. Previous Missourian reporting found that employees had no guidelines on how to handle Title IX incidents before this order. 

ESPN's investigation of Menu Courey's death shed light on MU's policies regarding sexual assaults. The Dowd-Bennett law firm, which was hired by the university to independently investigate how Menu Courey's case was handled, found that MU did not break the law when it did not investigate Menu Courey's allegations but was not in compliance with federal Title IX regulations. 

Curator John Phillips said these changes are not a "cure-all," but will address some of the more pressing policy needs before students return in August. 

The task force is continuing to develop systemwide recommendations for policy, resources and practices relating to sexual assault and mental health as part of a three-phase plan, said Deborah Noble-Triplett, chair of the task force.

Supervising editor is Landon Woodroof.

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Ellis Smith June 20, 2014 | 11:07 a.m.

1- The word "rape" was changed to nonconsensual sexual intercourse." [Don't we just LOVE political correctness! I'll bet it feels like RAPE to a victim.]

2- "Sexual assault investigations will begin immediately, rather than waiting until criminal proceedings begin. [YEARS late, but better than never.]

3- "The committee will be able to consider any previous disciplinary problems in a student's past". [If the student already has a string of disciplinary problems, why is the student still on campus? Are we running a university system or a halfway house for juvenile delinquents? But as with "2", above, this is a good addition, though tardy.]

4- Will Linda Bennett handle all Title IX problems for the System or just for MU? Last time I checked there were four campuses in University of Missouri System, and the majority of its students are now located at the other three campuses and not at MU. PLEASE CLARIFY.]

5- Curator Phillips' observation is absolutely correct: there is NO SUCH THING as a totally safe campus, and these rules will be only as good as their actual inforcement.]

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 21, 2014 | 8:21 a.m.

See above post. Still awaiting clarification as to whether Linda Bennett will be handling Title IX matters (as stated in the initial AND revised articles) for the entire System OR only for MU. Again, a reminder that more than half of the System's present students are NOT located at the MU czmpus!

(Report Comment)
Rachel Brooks June 22, 2014 | 8:57 p.m.

Mr. Smith,

This is Rachel Brooks, the reporter on this story. Linda Bennett was designated the interim Title IX coordinator for the Columbia campus by Chancellor Loftin earlier this month. Each campus has its own Title IX office and coordinator.

Thanks for reading!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 23, 2014 | 7:20 a.m.

@ Rachel Brooks:

One might assume there'd be coordinators at each campus, but the article, both as originally published and published as a revision, fails to note that. It could have easily been noted that Ms. Bennett is only the coordinator at MU.

There are four campuses at this university, and none has as yet been lost or misplaced. :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 23, 2014 | 7:47 a.m.

@ Tom Warhover and the Missourian:

One additional thought on this matter (rather than any specific article).

There IS another form of rape (AKA "sexual misconduct"), very real and legally recognized - that does NOT involve a female as victim: anal rape of one male by another male.

This would probably not involve Title IX, at least as we normally understand it, but it is nevertheless a crime when not consensual.

If there's to be a System-wide policy on such matters, shouldn't it address all forced "sexual misconduct"? If this already has been addressed by the Curators, that too might be "newsworthy."

Maybe the Curators can also come up with a different name for this form of rape that makes it sound "nicer."

(Report Comment)

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