Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well, this is late.

Yeah, this is later than I meant it to be.  Sue me.

Today is the first day of classes here, and I started out with my 1301 classes this morning.  For the first time, I had a class in which everyone showed up the first day.  I was amazed.

Tomorrow begins with British Lit I and a lesson on Indo-European languages and the development of English, then two 1302 classes back to back in the afternoon.  I have several repeating students this semester, so it's going to be nice to see friendly faces.  (If they're taking 1302 with me after having 1301 with me, I consider them friendly.)

Last week was the dreaded Week of Meetings.  I made it to almost all of them.  Faculty Professional Development day was Thursday morning...and I completely and utterly forgot.  It was in my calendar and everything.  Made it to the department meeting that afternoon, not so much professional development that morning, which was really a bummer, as I'd been looking forward to a colleague's stress reduction workshop.

Meetings started with convocation, which was, in my opinion, a disaster.  Not because the meeting was a disaster, but because of new federal guidelines that are being shoved on us through Title IX.

Let me explain.  I love Title IX.  Title IX is great.  It does a lot for women in academia and education.

That said, a new policy has come down (and whether or not all of it is the federal government or the college remains somewhat unclear).  Any instance of sexual violence regarding a Del Mar faculty, staff or student, must be reported--whether it happened on campus or not.

My problem is not with reporting.  God knows if something happened on campus, the college needs to know about it.  But off campus?

Here's the other thing--it has to be reported.  The victim doesn't get to say, "Please don't tell anyone."  Well, they do, but that request can't be honored.

I understand the intention behind this.  People are concerned that one student may cyber-stalk another or something along those lines.  But here's the thing:

Professors are often in a position where we are neutral figures a student can come speak to.  We know where resources are, we won't tell anyone, and we can provide advice.  English professors deal with this even more, because students often pour their hearts and souls into the writing, so they feel even more comfortable with us.  But now, if a student comes to me and tells me about something that happened to her (or him), even if it was off campus, I'm required to report it to a coordinator here at the college, no matter what the student's wishes are.

That's wrong.

Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence has already been through a horrific violation.  Now, if they come to me, I then have to betray that trust that they've put in me by reporting it up the chain, when the college has no interest, no claim, and no jurisdiction on anything that happens off campus.

So I have the following questions:

1. Isn't this a vast over-reach of college/university power?  What happens on a college campus is the responsibility of the college--I have no qualms about that.  But off-campus, a state-run college has no right to interfere with a student's life in any way.

2. Do off-campus incidents get included in the college's Clery Act reporting?

3. Is this, in fact, all from the federal government, or is the college placing additional restrictions on this that should not be there?  The policy has been approved by college lawyers, so my guess is that this is all from the federal government, as this over-reach might otherwise be something that could hold the college liable for privacy breaches.

4. Won't this have a detrimental effect on the reporting of sexual violence to authorities or in a victim seeking emotional and psychological help?  Students who have been victims (and who are aware of this policy) sometimes simply need someone to talk to.  I'm not a psychologist, but I can help students find other resources and encourage them to use them.  But if a student thinks that someone else will find out, or that it might become part of their college record (no matter how confidential), that may keep them from talking about it.

We already have a problem with under-reporting of sexual violence.  Let's not help that along.

5. Is the college counseling office exempt from this duty due to medical confidentiality?  My understanding (admittedly limited) was yes.  There was some fuzzy wording that suggested that counseling, clergy, members of the outside community were people we wanted students to speak to.

6. Does this mean that the college is simply trying to pass the buck when it comes to students who have been victims of sexual violence?

7. Do we not have a duty, as faculty, to stand up and point out that this is wrong?

I may have done that during Convocation.  But I was really, really angry about this.

I don't have answers for these.  I imagine that this is going to be a continuing discussion around the college (at least, I hope it is).  And that means that someone--several someones--are going to have to start protesting this to the federal government, which can withhold funds if we aren't in compliance.

In other words...it's a mess.  A very tangled, unhappy mess that is essentially going to make everyone angry.  I'm still pissed, and this was over a week ago.

There were some other things that went on last week that made it particularly eventful.  I'm really hoping this week looks up.

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