Sexual misconduct on campus: what students should know

Police Car

by Emily Beckman

When flipping through recent Annual Security Reports, it is noticeable that the majority of criminal offenses at Butler are marked with a zero. This is what makes the numbers on reported sexual misconduct and harassment cases stand out.

Each semester, all new students receive a Title IX training regarding sexual misconduct. In addition, Butler recently conducted its first Campus Climate Survey for Title IX, which was sent to all students. The survey is set to be conducted every two years. Both the training and the survey are sent through Canvas.

According to Sherri Conard, Butler’s Title IX coordinator, the recent Campus Climate Survey was sent to 6,938 students. Of these, 2,735 students completed the survey and another 752 started the survey but did not complete it.

“The Climate Survey gathers information about the scope and nature of sexual assault and misconduct among our college students, gives data pertaining to attitudes among students about the campus atmosphere regarding sexual assault and misconduct and provides data on where there may be gaps of knowledge so that we can provide appropriate educational programming for our students,” Conard says.

Since taking over as Title IX coordinator in July 2015, 12 incidents of sexual misconduct have been reported, according to Conard.

“Fortunately, we have minimal incidents reported at Butler compared to other colleges that you hear in the media,” Conard says. “However, I’m certain that there are incidents that go unreported, which is why we provide training to our students. We want students who feel that they may be a victim of sexual misconduct to know how to report incidents.”

While Bill Rinkenbaugh, vice president of student services, notes that Butler’s numbers are “significantly less than other colleges and universities across the country,” he says that “12 incidents are 12 incidents too many.”

“All individuals need to understand that they  have the right to work and live in a positive educational environment that is free from sexual harassment and violence,” Rinkenbaugh says in an email interview.

‘Two separate arenas’

The Department of Public Services (DPS), which includes 11 officers, has jurisdiction over all Butler campuses. There is at least one officer on duty during operating hours at Butler of Andover, and there is always at least one officer on duty at Butler of El Dorado. However, the department takes calls at all campuses.

“The same rules and laws and expectations are applicable across the campus footprint,” Police Chief James T. Bryan says.

When it comes to handling cases of sexual  misconduct, there is somewhat of a “disconnect” between the college and DPS, according to Bryan.

“We [DPS] only have control of these incidents as they occur from a police perspective on college property; things we own, operate, manage or are in attendance at,” he says.

For instance, Bryan explains, an incident that occurs at The Villas would not be investigated by DPS, but could be investigated by the Title IX team, since it would probably include Butler students.

DPS does not handle all cases of sexual misconduct and the Title IX investigators are not obligated to refer all cases to the department.

“It’s inherently designed to be two separate arenas,” Bryan says.

One of Bryan’s jobs is to prepare the college’s Annual Security Report.

“In that annual security report I not only report those crimes that are mandated to be reported, I also include in free narrative form the quantity of cases that the Title IX team has managed. Just for full disclosure,” he says.

According to the 2016 report, there were 11 administratively investigated harassment cases on all Butler properties in 2015. Of these, there were two cases of gender based complaint, five cases of sexual harassment and four other or unknown classification harassment complaints. Four of these cases were determined to be unfounded.

Additionally, there were two cases of dating violence, two cases of domestic violence and two cases of stalking reported in 2015.

While this is the most recent official report, Bryan says that through a “quick count” of last year’s reports, DPS investigated eight cases that could be construed as sexual misconduct in 2016.

“That would include forcible and person  on person sex crimes as well as those ‘simple harassment’ matters that reached our desk,” he says.

Bryan describes sexual misconduct cases as time-consuming, emotional and “taxing on the officer, the investigator and the victim.”

“But we’ll continue doing them; we’ll keep learning,” Bryan says.

“We want people to have fun. We want people to have relationships that are healthy and positive, but we also want students to be protected.”

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