Administrators express openness to changes in sexual harassment policy

Administrators express openness to changes in sexual harassment policy

by Emili JohnsonStaff Writer

SOPHIA, a Simpson feminist organization, is currently seeking council from administration and faculty on how to update and improve current sexual-harassment policy.

Junior Allison Jepsen, a member of SOPHIA, believes the policy should be better defined so students will feel more comfortable in dealing with such harassment issues when they occur.

“We just don’t feel (the current policy) defines enough,” Jepsen said. “We think it should be protective of everyone, no matter their previous relationship status with the person that has hurt them, or their sexuality or who has put the assault on whom.”

The group has recently looked at other colleges’ policy in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and believes Simpson should have an exemplary policy-one with clearly defined terms and procedures that promote justice for everyone.

President John Byrd has looked into the current sexual harassment policy and feels there are some points that need to be stressed, and information about the policy should be available to students as well.

“I think, we need to stress the role of advocacy more so that any student who might report a rape of any sexual assault would know very early in the policy who they could go to for help,” Byrd said.

Byrd thinks a brochure on what to do in the case of sexual assault should be readily available to students, staff and faculty, and it should explain the policies in more detail.

Director of Security Chris Frerichs thinks there is always room for improvement in the policy and agrees with Byrd about making the information of the policy more available to students.

As a key player in gathering information about rape or assault cases on campus, Frerichs stresses that the relationship between the campus and the Indianola Police Department is very strong, and they only have the best interest of the victim in mind when handling these cases.

“We always want to make sure of the health and safety of the student,” Frerichs said. “Then we gather as much information as possible about the incident because we immediately want to begin our investigation.”

Frerichs also said it is very important for students to know what to do and what not to do in these situations.

Stephanie Krauth, associate dean of students, is interested in hearing what concerned students have to say about making improvements to the policy.

She said that within the last few years, the policy has made a dramatic change from what it used to be.

“We did change (the policy) three years ago,” Krauth said. “We had a task force that really revamped it,because the policy that we had before was a lot more of a paradigm of ‘young lady watch what you wear and where you go’ instead of the paradigm of effective consent which puts the responsibility on both parties.”

Other changes to the policy include a verbal-abuse clause. Krauth said all policies in the IIAC conference are derived from the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management manual that dealing with sexual misconduct.

Krauth and Frerichs also said there are counselors and chaplains that are trained in helping students cope and make decisions about sexual harassment and assault, and that all information is confidential.

“We care. It’s our obligation as an institution, and it’s our job.” Frerichs said.