In the wake of the ongoing #MeToo movement and sexual assault allegations making national as well as local news, understanding the policies that make up Title IX on college campuses, including Pasadena City College (PCC), is integral.
Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Under Title IX, sexual assault/harassment cases on college campuses are considered discrimination. In fact, if colleges don’t take proper action they risk losing funding.
Therefore, multiple policies exist on campus to ensure that students do not face discrimination and can report incidents at any time. These fall under multiple areas such as incidents dealing with student-student relations and student-faculty relations.
Last semester, The Courier published an article detailing former student, Hanna Israel’s account of sexual harassment against Vice President and Corporate Chef of I-8 food services, Tychicus Yu and her experience dealing with her claim within the administration on campus.
According to Charlotte Moore, Employee Relations Officer in the Human Resources (HR) department, if a student wants to file a claim, they can do so by written manner or online. Then, the HR department reviews the claim and talks to the student about their story, determines if there are any witnesses and gathers any additional information the student wants to provide. Afterwards, the HR department contacts the respondent and explains the complaints the accused has made against them.
When a complaint comes into the HR department, the accuser, the respondent and any other individual involved are interviewed. Once the interviews are concluded, the accused and the respondent get a report of the notice of findings that includes statements that were said and other relevant information pertaining to the claim.
“At the end there is a standard. A more likely than not standard, as to which person is believed or not believed or whether or not the allegation is substantiated,” said Moore. “Substantiated means which side is believed. This has to do with the types of evidence such as witnesses or claims that are unclear.”
However, if a student files a sexual harassment complaint against a faculty member, there is more detailed process the school must abide by.
For faculty members, “administrative leave” occurs within the hands of the district. The district may suspend the faculty member with pay and remove them from the presence of the accuser. This is done to separate both parties during the investigation until the nature and details of the situation is determined. For instance, if a student files a claim against a professor, the student has a right to their education and is ultimately allowed to stay in the class.
Past instances of this include former Courier Adviser, Warren Swil being put on administrative leave in 2013 after a student filed a claim against him for showing inappropriate photos of himself.
Architecture instructor, Coleman Griffith was also put on administrative leave in 2015 after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Claims made against contractors on the other hand, are handled differently. The sexual harassment claim made against Tychicus Yu was brought up to I-8 food services as he is contracted to work through them but not through PCC.
The HR department works with the contractor’s employer in order to complete the investigation. Therefore, rather than the HR department conducting an investigation independently, they wait for the contractor’s employer to fully investigate the situation and give a response to the college.
Once an investigation concludes, the accuser and the respondent have the right to appeal to the Board of Trustees (BOT) and go into a closed session. It is unclear whether or not Israel filed an appeal, however she did go into a closed session with the BOT after reporting the incident to campus police and filing an official statement with Dr. Scott Thayer, former dean of student services.
“As long as a student is here on campus, we are responsible for them,” said Moore.
Dean of Student Life, Rebecca Cobb, oversees the process of students making claims against another student. When a student reports an incident, Dean Cobb is mandated by law to report it to the Title IX coordinator, Robert Blizinski. As information becomes available, Dean Cobb begins a process that ranges in time, depending on the nature of the situation.
The first step is going through a preliminary investigation and talking to the student making a claim to gather as much information as possible. The goal is to find out what happened, make a list of witnesses and begin an investigation.
Afterwards, the student that has been accused of sexual misconduct will be called to get their perspective on what happened. Once both parties have met separately with Dean Cobb, she will issue a mutual no contact order.
“This means that both parties can’t have contact with each other in any way until the investigation progresses,” said Cobb. “They can’t contact each other through third parties such as friends or post anything on social media.”
Student conduct is based on the preponderance of evidence.
“Preponderance of evidence is more likely than not when the incident occurred. More likely than not if it constitutes a violation of student conduct code and more likely than not if the person who has alleged to have done this did this,” said Dean Cobb. “From that point, it is determining what an appropriate sanction for that behavior is.”
Sexual misconduct against students is broad, therefore punishment for behavior on a student’s behalf differs from situation to situation.
“Depending on the information that is provided, students have a choice for us to continue an investigation,” said Cobb. “Safety is our first concern. We want a culture of reporting rather than a culture of silence.”
After reporting an incident to Dean Cobb, if a student chooses not to pursue an investigation, the situation then becomes tough to deal with as the primary goal is to keep students safe on campus.
If this happens, Dean Cobb refers students to campus resources such as personal counseling.
If a student is a survivor of sexual harassment/assault, they can reach out to the personal counseling office on campus and go through trauma related therapy.
“We help them move from victim to survivor to a healthy person,” said staff psychologist, Richard A. Beyer. “We work with survivors on their feelings, thoughts and results of behaviors of when they start to feel this way.”
When a student comes into personal counseling, they fill out paperwork and wait to be seen by a licensed staff member. Students are allowed eight personal counseling sessions per semester. If however, the situation for the student needs more attentive care beyond the services the personal counseling office provides, Beyer suggests students to reach out to outside organizations, such as Peace Over Violence.
“What I hope is that students become aware of the trauma that they experience, realize how it’s affecting their lives now and that there is help available for them,” said Beyer.