Concordia College is undergoing changes: the phasing out of majors, a new school of business, soon a new president. However, there is a change that has not been widely discussed: the new sexual misconduct policy.
The five-paragraph sexual violence policy posted on the school’s Web site will soon change into a clearly written policy that will inform students about what sexual misconduct is, what consent is as well as information of how to report an offense.
Reasoning for the change has to do with the results of the College Student Health Survey Report, which is completed every two years, as well as the yearly Clery Report.
According to the college’s 2009 Clery Report, there were zero reported rapes on campus in 2009; however, in the 2010 Student Health Survey, in which nearly 51 percent of the campus partook, 7.7 percent of females said they have been raped in the previous 12 months.
“This means that girls have been raped, but they are not reporting it,” said Bill MacDonald, director of public safety.
The Clery Act was named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old freshman who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room in 1986. Her parents later found out that there were 36 violent crimes near her dormitory the previous year, and the students were not notified. This act requires all post-secondary education institutions that receive federal or state aid to report all crimes on campus and within a certain geographical area.
From 2007 to 2009, there were no reported rapes on the Clery Report for Concordia, which is the lowest of the three colleges in the area: both NDSU and MSUM reported three rapes each in 2009.
Looking at the 7.7 percent of females who have been sexually assaulted, which is actually down from 8.8 percent in the 2008 survey, a problem is still apparent.
“It is a big enough change to be considered significant,” said Paul Wraalstad, director of student programs and facilities. “This is very troubling for administration, so the college is addressing the issue.”
It is not that victims of assault do not have the opportunity to report their attacks. They choose not to.
“I have been here for almost two and a half years,” MacDonald said, “and during that time I may have had 10 sexual misconduct reports.”
According to MacDonald, some victims find it difficult to talk about their experience.
“Some sexual assault victims don’t want to pursue a conviction,” he said. “They may want treatment without testifying or reporting the incident. I cannot explain personal decisions.”
At Concordia, if a student is sexually assaulted, they have the opportunity to report the assault, but are not required to file an official report with the school or the police.
An official report with the school would be if the victim wanted to hold the alleged perpetrator accountable for their actions without making a criminal report. The victim would file a student misconduct complaint against the alleged perpetrator. Much like when a student violates other school policies such as drinking on campus or taking off window screens, a sanction is held against the alleged perpetrator.
They have 48 hours to respond with any of three options: accepting complaint and sanctions, rejecting the complaint and sanctions or accepting the complaint but rejecting the sanctions.
If a victim doesn’t want to file a report with the school, but wants to take official action, they can file a report with the police and then pursue criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator.
However, this is the choice of the victim. Neither Public Safety nor law enforcement officials would push a victim to press charges.
“Victims need to understand that we are sympathetic toward them,” MacDonald said. “Even if they don’t want to report it, we will help them with whatever they need.”
When the assault happened is irrelevant, as the campus offers different services for victims to utilize.
“The school offers an advocate for the victim,” the director of residence life, Jasi O’Connor said. An advocate is a trained professional who, if requested by the victim, can be there with the victim. “But also we help them get counseling either on or off campus.”
What the school offers for those who have been sexually assaulted will not change in the new sexual misconduct policy.
The policy’s draft is roughly five pages long and is still undergoing some revision changes; however, the one section that is clarified and stressed is the section of what sexual assault is and what is considered consent.
“Students are not well educated about consent,” O’Connor said. “People have a different definition of what consent is.”
According to the draft, “consent is informed, knowing and voluntary. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.” The draft continues to address the issue being incapacitated and engaging in sexual activity.
“One cannot legally give consent to have sex if they are incapacitated,” O’Connor said.
If anyone engages in sexual activity with someone who is mentally or physically incapacitated by means of drugs or alcohol, consent is not given and they would be in violation of the policy.
“We will be sending e-mails, perhaps passing out brochures throughout the year,” Wraalstad said. “We will do anything and everything to get that information out there. But even with all of those options, there will be a percentage of people who will never see it.”
O’Connor, as well as the all administrators of the campus, is dedicated to getting this information out there for students through a variety of means.
In the residence halls, resident assistants are required to create a program or a bulletin board about sexual safety for their floor, said O’Connor. Also, the administration hopes to schedule speakers and discuss the new policy with incoming freshmen during orientation
“We want to help students better understand this,” O’Connor said. “We want to be a support for the students for whatever they need.”