Staff ed: Another semester, another session

Last semester, Washington University’s Title IX Office and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center teamed up to host “listening sessions” for students to raise questions and critique about how Wash. U. handles sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Some of the previously voiced concerns—including those described in two op-eds submitted to Student Life last year—included the length of time it took for the Title IX office took to complete investigations and the office’s lack of sensitivity during the investigations themselves. When the listening sessions were first announced, the Editorial Board noted the virtue of the sessions themselves but encouraged the University to be willing to make drastic changes to the process if indicated.

Now, we get to see the results.

Some of the new changes outlined include three more sessions to be held in February and March; increased dialogue between the Women’s Panhellenic Association and the Title IX Office; updates to the Title IX website; increased training for professors and resident advisers; and an unbiased assessment of the newly instituted changes by the Institute of Public Health through the Brown School.

The Editorial Board commends the Title IX Office for some of these changes: Increasing communication about these issues to help dispel the stigma surrounding sexual assault and educating campus leaders about the process can only lead to good things. Facilitating these discussions by asking for questions ahead of time and presenting clear descriptions of the complicated processes has the potential to increase transparency campus-wide.

While this promise to change is all well and good, some of these adjustments have yet to take place. The three previous sessions were all held in September—almost five months ago—yet the timeline for the independent assessment has not been decided, and other changes have been promised to “roll out this semester.”

While encouraging, none of these changes seem to focus the procedure itself; instead, the focus is on how people view it. One major issue students have with the process—the length of time it takes—seems to have been unaddressed, save for answering questions about why it takes so long in the first place. What about the scheduling mishaps or violations of student privacy? Or the allegations of a lack of sensitivity on behalf of the Title IX Office?

In the coming months, the University office designated to protect and adjudicate on behalf of its students will have yet another chance to tailor its processes to student concerns. Again, the Student Life Editorial Board hopes these concerns are translated into tangible and significant results.