Following a difficult year in the Office of Student Ethics, students and administrators met Thursday evening to discuss better means of communication and changes to IU’s Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct.
The meeting, put on by student group Raising Awareness for Interactions and Sexual Encounters, also brought discussion of several new positions implemented within the Office of Student Ethics following resignation of the office’s former director Jason Casares last February after he was accused of rape, though the case was later dismissed.
“Last year was a hard year in the Office of Student Ethics,” Dean of Students Lori Reesor said. “A very, very difficult year. I know a number of things happened and changes were made.”
In the 90-minute open forum attended by representatives from the Feminist Student Association, Safe Sisters, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault and Student Assault Crisis Services, Reesor explained the changes made during the summer leading up to this school year.
The changes, which focused primarily on refining the University’s definition of consent and sexual assault, also included the hiring of personnel in the Office of Student Ethics and the creation of a dedicated four-person team to investigate only issues of sexual assault.
Previously, administrators in this role have also simultaneously investigated cases related to academic misconduct and other student conduct violations.
“One of the things we recognized pretty quickly with that model is this is an expertise area,” Interim Dean of Student Ethics Libby Spotts said. “This is an area that needs a lot of attention.”
Spotts said the Office of Student Ethics will have a full staff within the next two weeks.
After explaining these changes, the full classroom of about 30 in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs opened to dialogue between students and the four attending administrators.
In addition to Reesor and Spotts, panelists included Assistant Dean of Students for Women’s and Gender Affairs Leslie Fasone and Chief Student Welfare and Title IX Officer Emily Springston.
In the conversation, students raised questions about how the University educates incoming students on the topic of consent, how student organizations are held accountable for their actions and how the University can address verbal aggressions not included in the student code of conduct, such as cat-calling.
The panel encouraged students to report these issues, so administrators can more easily identify problem spots on campus.
“That would be my dream — that we can address every potential behavioral violation before it becomes an actual code violation,” Spotts said.
Lauren Rothstein, a junior and communications director for FSA, raised concerns about IU’s lack of notification following five off-campus home invasions last week in areas predominantly housed by students.
“I’m concerned about the fact that we’re not getting reports,” Rothstein said. “If those weren’t reported, then I don’t know how many more we haven’t been hearing about.”
Reesor explained the University’s lack of response as a misunderstanding of how students would prefer to receive safety updates, via email or social media.
“I don’t think what we did was very productive and that we should have done that,” Reesor said about the University’s lack of response. “Now we’re trying to figure out how not to do that and what’s the best way to fix that.”
Reesor said she and University public safety officials met this week to discuss ways of better communication with students.
When asked at the end of the night if there were still questions, hands went up throughout the room and students expressed a desire to meet with administrators again.
“I’m still not fully satisfied with the system,” Rothstein said. “Obviously it’s not like an immediate change that can be done, but it’s good that they seem open to addressing it.”
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