Knowing the next move

BY HALEY WATKINS | Evergreen reporter

Kim Anderson, director of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator, and two newly hired investigators are working together to combat sexual assault on campus.

“According to a recent national study, one in five college women experience attempted or completed sexual assault and that number has not really shifted in about 10 to 20 years,” Anderson said.

Although there has been a seeming spike in reports of sexual assaults during the last three weeks, WSU administrators are quick to point out this does not indicate a high rate of assaults, but could be the result of more students feeling empowered and coming forward.

The U.S National Institute of Justice estimates that fewer than 5 percent of attempted and completed rapes are reported by college women.

 “Unfortunately not everyone comes to us with an understanding of what is and is not okay,” said Dean of Students Melynda Huskey.

To file a complaint regarding sexual assault, violence, or stalking, services are available in the Office of Equal Opportunity, located in French Administration room 225, or the Office of Student Standards and Accountability, located in Lighty 260.

“My blue-sky goal is [sexual assault] won’t be happening in the future,” Huskey said, “but my feet-on-the-ground goal is I want every student on campus to know that they should report and that they can get help.

A National College Health Assessment survey of WSU from 2012-2013 showed 15 percent of undergraduates had experienced interpersonal violence; this includes sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

Once a filed complaint is received a causal interview is set up to discuss the circumstance.

“It’s intended to be as informal and comfortable of a situation as we can make it,” Anderson said, “They’re encouraged to bring a support person with them if they like as well.”

Once the initial meeting has taken place, an investigation, which is set up very differently than a police investigation, will be put into motion.

“We can assist students in reporting to the police if they like,” Anderson said.

In certain circumstances the university may be required to go to the police; however this is only in rare cases. 

“We would only share information with the police if there was an ongoing threat to the safety of the individual or the safety of campus,” said Anderson, “I can think of only one circumstance where we felt we were required to contact the police and it was because of an ongoing threat.”

The reporting party has the option to be as involved in the investigation as they like. By no means necessary are they required to take part in the initial process.

“We want to be transparent about our processes,” Anderson said. “A transparent and neutral investigation is important in ensuring that outcomes are upheld.”

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Student Standards and Accountability work together to determine whether or not WSU Policy or the student conduct code were violated, and if so the student will be referred to Student Standards.

“If discipline is involved the matter can either be addressed through an informal one-on-one conduct officer hearing, or the University Conduct Board will have a hearing,” said Adam Jussel, director of Student Standards and Accountability.

Similarly aligned with the investigation, a Conduct Board Hearing has no real similarities to that of a criminal court trial. The person who filed the complaint also does not have to attend the hearing if he or she doesn’t want to.

“It’s not like a court at all,” Jussel said, “There’s not judges in robes or a gavel, just faculty and students.”

Student and faculty receive specialized training when the hearing involves allegations of sexual violence, Jussel said.

“Having students on the board is really fun and I get pretty jazzed up about it,” Jussel said. “We had a student leaning over and explaining to a 70 year old member what Yik Yak is — their insight is really helpful.”

Once the hearing is over, the conduct board or conduct officer hearing will determine appropriate sanctions for the student after 10 days.

“Some sanctions seen are taking an alcohol and drug course, community service, or a reflection paper,” Jussel said.

However, each sanction differs for each separate case. There are no predetermined outcomes before the hearing.

Once the hearing is over and the person who filed the complaint is through with the investigative and conduct process, he or she may be referred to counseling programs.

Health and Wellness, Pullman Regional Hospital, Counseling and Testing Service, Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse, Pullman Police Department, and WSU Police Department are some of the resources students can access.