Grievance Panel Research
The Knox College Formal Grievance Procedures:
A Student’s Study
- 1 Introduction
- 2 History
- 3 Research Plan
- 4 Topics of Concern
- 5 Details of Process
- 6 Results
- 7 Recommendations
- 8 Epilogue
- 9 Acknowledgements
- 10 Appendices
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 Related articles
The Knox College Grievance Procedures are intended to address cases of “discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p.28) by either an informal or formal process. For the purposes of this paper, I will be concentrating on the latter of the two, and will frequently refer to it as simply the “GP,” even within quotations from interviews. The informal proceedings can be considered to be more akin to mediation sessions, while the formal procedures are similar to a trial. While the definition makes clear that the GP can see many different kinds of cases, the cases in recent history have addressed allegations of sexual misconduct.
Recent history has also yielded many publicly made complains regarding the GP. These comments are often related to student’s impressions of the GP and their claims of its ineffectiveness, in varying degrees. As will be fully addressed by the end of this report, some areas that seem to be in most need of critical attention are the lack of training for those on the panel, the current guiding documents leave out many details on how the procedures are to operate, and there is a grave scarcity of public information on how to use the GP.
I have been thinking about and working on the GP for a few years now – mostly through the campus club Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS). A few years ago we formed a subcommittee to reevaluate the GP and determine what we thought needed to be changed about the processes. There was so much information to comb through that we only got as far as a ‘cheat sheet’ and timeline (see appendix), which simplified the process and was designed to help someone get through the procedures more easily than they would if they were only reading the legalese of the Student Handbook. Our group felt the same way that I feel now – the GP needs change. We were not sure exactly what needed to change, but we had heard from enough people that there were problems, and that change needed to come. The accusations that stood out to me included: the way it is written is hard to understand; people may be discouraged from reporting; reporting procedures are unclear (who do you go to first?); nothing gets done (even the Dean of Students has said that no one comes away from this process feeling good); there is confusion about the roles of advocates and advisors; no yearly report has ever been made (as is referenced in the Student Handbook); there is no record of informal complaints; there is no one trained in law for this serious procedure; people do not report at all for a variety of reasons (they have heard so many bad things, they do not think anything will happen, they do not know how to, or just they just do not feel empowered to do so).
I became interested in this subject through SASS, my Gender and Women’s Studies (GWST) major, my role as a Resident Advisor (RA) on campus and my ever-growing interest in feminism. I started to meet women who claimed to have been discouraged by the college from reporting incidents, or who had not found satisfaction in the grievance options presented. All I ever heard about the GP was negative. I knew that a few years ago there had been a rewrite, but there still seemed to be problems. I started to wonder if there needed to be an entirely new rewrite, or if there were a better process to follow. So when the opportunity for my senior research came up, I decided to devote my time to looking at the GP. I hoped at least to identify some of the problems that the procedures had, and at the most to rewrite the system. The results have fallen somewhere in between.
I started by looking at a paper that was written by Knox College students the previous term (for GWST 101) that critiqued the GP. I had met with them as they were working on the paper, and was able to follow the progress they were making and consider some of the issues they were addressing. I met with my advisor and identified what I wanted to end up with, my final goals. I had a preliminary meeting with a friend who was very vocal about her experience with the GP in order to gather some initial information, form some questions, and gather key and contributing factors to her dissatisfaction. I consulted scholarly studies on college grievance proceedings; I looked at the processes used by other Midwest colleges; I consulted with the Dean of Students, and finally sent out email messages looking for students/staff/faculty who had experience with the GP and who would be willing to be interviewed (see appendix for text of emails).
The initial goal that I identified was to find a better way to address sexual misconduct (anything from harassment to assault) within the Knox system. I wanted to identify what the problems were, look at other processes and systems and make recommendations. First and foremost was to look at what contributed to an unsatisfying outcome (if indeed we were seeing nothing but dissatisfaction).
While planning this paper, the audience I always had in mind was the college administration. As I got further into it, I became aware of a broader audience that would benefit from these studies; as a member of student senate, I planned on forming an ad-hoc committee to act on my eventual recommendations. However, I felt that changes needed to come from the college; as hard as students have worked on these processes and as important as their work is, this is a college procedure, a panel that is put together by the president and is overseen by the Dean of Students, among others. While individuals’ efforts have been appreciated and respected, I felt that it was time for the administration to take on some of the burden of the work, and not leave it to students, whose first priority should be school work and not facing the monumental task of reformatting and/or overhauling a well established college procedure.
In this same vein, it is important for students to know what the situation is with the GP, but it is equally important for the administration to understand the frustrations that are coming from the student body about the GP. So it has been my focus to write this paper for the administration, rather than for the students. I hope to be a voice that, in part, bridges the gap between the student unrest, the frustrations of the panel members themselves and the administration’s knowledge and interest. It is truly the students, such as myself, who understand the faults of a system they know and have used, who can say what works and what does not. I believe it is in the spirit of the Knox tradition of independence and self-initiative that I have made this choice to study this process as a student, and bring my advice to the entire school.
While my primary research revolved around interviews, I spent a good deal of time reading over professional literature on grievance procedures and also looking into how other colleges and universities operate. Much has been written about school and workplace sexual harassment, as well as how to approach inappropriate relationships between those with power and those without (i.e. professors and students). As my research went on, I found that these resources were important as a backup, but my interviews were where I was getting the best information. The specifics of the Knox College procedures were what needed to be addressed.
I interviewed two groups of people: students who had been involved in a grievance case and staff or faculty who have served on the GP. In soliciting interviewees, I stressed that I would be asking about the process and not about details of particular cases. Nonetheless, I was able to enlist fewer people that I had hoped for: two accusers, three committee members and two witnesses. The questions I asked in the interviews were as follows:
Questions for panel members:
- What role do/did you play on the GP? About how many cases have you seen in that role?
- How satisfied were you with the process? Why?
- Do you feel that you know the procedures fairly well / are they clear to you?
- Were you satisfied with the process of deciding on a verdict? Why?
- Were you satisfied with the appeals process? Why?
- How effective did / do you feel you were / are as a GP member? Why? What factors contribute to your answer?
- What are the problem areas of the process / deciding a verdict / appeals?
- Are there types of cases that the system works better for / less problematic?
- Do you have suggestions for improvements?
- What aspects of the process are important to preserve?
Questions for students:
- What was the nature of your involvement with the GP?
- Were you satisfied with the process? Why? What contributing factors?
- What did you understand about the procedures going in?
- Were you satisfied with the outcome? Why?
- What, if any, was your experience with the appeals process?
- What suggestions do you have for improvement?
- What aspects of the process are important to preserve?
Another aspect of my methodology is that those who were interviewed for this paper have had the opportunity to review quotes I have selected from their transcript and what I have written about them and the process before this paper is made public. This makes the interviewees even more a part of the process, rather than choosing to just use them for quantitative information and disregarding the importance of their input. This method also encourages further participation in this project.
Because my interview base was small, it is important to know the nature of each interviewee’s involvement with the GP.
Accuser 1: This student has been very vocal about her concerns with the GP. She offered to help with this project as soon as she heard about it, and was willing to do a pre-interview with me to determine some initial questions. She filed a grievance with the GP for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in January 2005, for an incident that had occurred in the winter of 2004. She made the decision to take her case to the panel during fall term 2004, but the accused was removed from campus at that time due to an honor board hearing, so she saw no point in filing in the fall; she filed in winter term of 2005 when he was back on campus. The initial outcome of the hearing was that the accused was found not in violation of the Knox College conduct code on the count of sexual misconduct, but he was found in violation of the conduct code on the count of sexual harassment. This decision was appealed and the process went into February 2005. The appeal was rejected. The accused remained on campus, and was on campus for the drafting of this paper.
Accuser 2: This student responded immediately to my email request for volunteers to interview. As a direct result of her case, she was studying off campus, and was willing to do a phone interview. In the fall term of 2005, a friend and she realized that the same person had sexually assaulted them both, so they decided to take him to the GP. Accuser 2’s incident was in the spring of 2004, and her friend’s incident was in the fall of 2005. The case was heard fall term, 2005. The other woman has left Knox entirely, and has enrolled in another college (again, as a direct result of this case). The accused was found not in violation of the Knox College conduct code, and the subsequent appeal was rejected. The accused remained on campus.
Chair/committee member 1: This person contacted me about an interview in response to my email. This individual was a faculty member of the committee in the 2004-2005 academic year, at which time she saw one case. She became Chair in the 2005-2006 academic year. Her first case as a chair was in the fall of 2005. She has been working to make changes in the GP, conducting her own research and information gathering.
Committee member 2: This individual was hesitant about doing an interview, but decided to help with the research. She is a staff member who has been on the panel since March 2004 and has heard three cases. She spoke about being on jury duty before this case and how if affected the way she approached her role on the GP.
Committee member 3: This is a current faculty member who was on the GP for a year or less and served four or five years ago. He saw one case, which did not involve sexual misconduct. He was very dissatisfied with entire process: “I’m really someone I guess who feels that the panel shouldn’t exist” (CM3).
Witness 1: This student was a witness for the case that involved Accuser 2, in which two women brought the same man to trial at the same time for two different incidents. She was a witness for her best friend/roommate in a case in the fall of 2005. She was on campus for the drafting of this paper.
Witness 2: This student immediately replied to my email requests for volunteers. She was a witness for two cases that involved two women - two different cases at the same time, fall term 2004 (not to be confused with Accuser 2’s fall term 2005 case which also involved two accusers). She was a character witness for one of the girls, and an eyewitness in the case for the other girl. She was on campus for the drafting of this paper.
Topics of Concern
In the course of my interviews, all the interviewees raised concerns about GP. I have divided these concerns into a number of sub-topics: Pre-Procedure, Initial Understanding, Pre-Hearing, Notification/Preparation, Advisors & Advocates, The Hearing: Structure, The Hearing: Content, Knowledge/Training, Burden of Evidence, and Deciding a Verdict. In the sections that follow, I take up each topic in turn, first describing the concerns raised, and then discussing any relevant research. Most of the propositions for possible changes to improve the situation are presented in the conclusion of this report.
If students know that inappropriate behavior is not going to be tolerated, they will feel that they can count on the school to support them. In my review of scholarly literature, the first step that is recommended to aid any procedure is to make sure you first have a strong statement on sexual harassment.
- “In order to promote effective and equitable resolution of sexual harassment complaints, it is necessary to have an explicit policy adopted by the educational institution or company in compliance with the provision of Title IX (for students) and Title VII (for employees), applicable to all members of the school/workplace community” (Paludi: 2003, p.181)
The policy has to be made very public; it cannot remain buried in the handbook. The Knox College policies on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct start on page 42 of the Student Handbook – more than ten pages after the section on the GP. It starts with: “Knox College will not tolerate discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct. Any violation of these policies may be subject to disciplinary action by the Grievance Panel” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p. 42). The section goes on to speak to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct separately.
Another main point that was made in my scholarly research was an acknowledgement that there are two major types of models to handle grievance cases.
- “Schools have developed several models of sexual harassment grievance procedures. The two most typical models include: (1) designating a single person as grievance officer, and (2) establishing a grievance board or committee” (Brandenburg, 1997, p. 53).
Knox follows the second option: we have a committee that sees cases of sexual harassment (among other complaints). It has been suggested that this is the most effective model, which may be a small comfort.
Because I was informally theorizing that students’ understanding of the procedures would correlate with their negative or positive feelings of them, the first question I asked each participant (after defining their role with the GP) was if they had been satisfied with the process. The four students who were involved, and Committee Member 3 immediately responded “no” or “not at all” or “absolutely not”. The other two Committee Members were not as quick to make a single judgment. Committee Member 2 stated that this question was part of why she had been hesitant to do the interview.
- “I think that the process, as it is designed, works ... The objective is, as I understand it, is to provide an opportunity for cases to be heard by objective members of the Knox community. I think that is truly the case. In my experience personally, any frustration about being on the panel wasn’t because any procedures that was outlined to me, it’s because the decision making process as a panelist was very difficult” (CM2).
Committee Member 1 / Chair said:
- “As the Chair I feel that the committee members went into it understanding what was going to happen, and I feel that everybody involved on the committee did a really strong upstanding job of really going through all the information and hearing the case, trying to hear it from both sides. On that level, I feel pretty satisfied. That’s not to say though that I feel satisfied with how it’s presented for the students in regards to their understanding of the material and how I feel the students walked into the hearing understand what was about the happen” (Chair).
CM 2 has important and valid things to say coming from her vantage point as a member of the panel. The experience of being inside the process is far different from approaching it as an outsider. The Chair hits upon one of the foremost issues with the GP, which is the degree to which students understand the processes and how well they are able to utilize their knowledge.
A lot of what determines how well the process is going to work is how it is set up and prepared for students. When it comes time for a student to use the GP, will he or she know what to do, whom to contact? Will he or she feel that they have the support of the school?
- “…[C]olleges and universities should identify, train, and publicize the existence of persons whom students and employees can feel comfortable contacting concerning problems they are having with sexual harassment” (Fitzgerald, 1996, p. 130).
In addition to the fact that the ex officio member should be made more public (as they are a person’s formal entry point into the procedures), there should be constant reminders to the college community about what the GP is and how it works. Simply publicizing the GP at the start of the academic year (and thus, subsequently, only once a year) is not enough.
I also asked participants about their previous knowledge of the GP before they became involved, and for the most part, those who went through the procedures knew very little about how it worked beforehand, and struggled with it while going through. In some cases, it was felt that the members of the panel were not equipped to answer questions on how the GP was to run. When asked if she understood the procedures, the Chair said “I do now … I read the student handbook, I can’t even tell you how many times, to really feel like I fully understood the process of it. I feel definitely now much more comfortable with it” (Chair). After moving from a committee member to the chair, in addition to vigilantly reading the procedures, she spent time doing her own outside research into the procedures and what had happened in the past and how things were to be run. If it took her this much time and so many re-reads to get it clear, how much effort would it take an individual who is possibly in a vulnerable and traumatic state to read through the process for the first time and really understand it, especially if that individual has no previous education on the process to draw from?
Interestingly, the perception that the procedures are written in dense language was not the primary concern of the students interviewed. In light of the comments from the Chair, I still consider this to be an issue, but perhaps students did not linger on it because they felt that there were more pressing issues to address. When asked how well they understood the procedures, several students mentioned that they went over what was going to happen either with an ex officio member or advisor/advocate, and felt adequately prepared.
Details of Process
The way the GP process is written, after the individual(s) contact an ex officio member of the panel and both parties sit down to draft a formal complaint. The ex officio then contacts the Chair and files the complaint with him or her. The panel makes a decision about the case being heard by looking at the formal complaint, which is distributed by the Chair so everyone can read it and vote. After the panel has determined that the case is to be heard, the accuser and the accused are to be notified in three different ways of the decision and when/where the hearing is to be held. The parties may then compile a list of witnesses and chose advocates and advisors. These are all steps to be taken in preparation for the actual hearing. Even at this early point, problems with the system have been voiced.
First, many people go into this with a misunderstanding about what the panel can actually do - its powers. As a campus committee, the panel operates by charging (or not charging) someone in violation of the Knox College conduct code, rather than making any legal judgments. [However, the handbook does use this legal language: “After the hearing is completed the GP will meet in closed session to determine the findings, including verdict (‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’) and appropriate sanctions” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p. 30).] The chair clarified the extent of its influence, and the frustrations that may be credited to these limitations.
- “And I think that in some sense, there is dissatisfaction that that’s the outcome and it’s not always easy to determine that type of verdict. So I think … that students sometimes come in and want to have a really strong clear verdict ... but because we’re not going to the GPD [Galesburg Police Department], because we’re not filing a police report, because we’re not bringing this to the law, I often feel that we don’t have the same power, or that the students don’t feel like when it’s all over, a sense of real satisfaction, regardless on if it came … in their favor or not because even if you’ve gone through a whole hearing and it’s come out in your favor, chances are that both students are wandering around on campus” (Chair).
To further make her point, the Chair later likened the process to another college system we are familiar with: the Honor Board, which is similar in that it is a system that deals exclusively with on-campus matters and does not bring in outside influence. Committee Member 2 makes a separate distinction: “I was not frustrated with the process; I was just frustrated with what we’re given to work with” (CM2).
From the point of view of someone on the panel, preparation frustrations come from several avenues. The mechanics of organizing a trial can be difficult – according to CM3, when he served on the GP, it was “known among faculty, and probably staff, that this was an undesirable committee to be on” (CM3). Rumors abounded about the difficulties the panel faced, outside of the actual cases: “there were stories about people meeting at three o’clock in the morning” (CM3). Also frustrating was the lack of information for the panel members to use to prepare themselves. For one, because of the “high” turn over, and few cases brought per year, people who are on the panel likely have not seen many, if any, cases when one comes up.
- “Each member (except ex officios) will serve a three-year term: the first year as an alternate, the subsequent two years as a regular member. Those alternates for non-ex-officio positions will be appointed as third year members retire from the board. The President will select a chair from among the members” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p.29).
This leaves a committee member with very little experience to draw from. In addition, training or research materials for panel members do not exist to supplement this lack of experience –
- “While there is a student handbook that says all that, there is not a handbook on the other side that says here’s a point by point step of what you have to do to make a hearing happen … [There is] really no job description [which is] pretty typical for most committees … [the information] gets passed down to you through the oral tradition” (Chair).
Committee Member 2 agrees with the first point, stating that she relies “heavily on those couple of pages in the handbook” (CM2). And that while the Chair is the one that seems to know the most, and that individual does go over the procedures frequently,
- “I think it would be helpful if the panelists could also be advised of those procedures, if perhaps there was some sort of document outlining the ... detailed steps that take place, it would probably help all of us have a better understanding of what to expect” (CM 2).
This document, which would ideally spell out the procedures for the panel members, outline their role and clarify any other details, has been referred to as the Mirror Document (in that it would exist to mirror the handbook’s explanation of what students are to do), but will henceforth be informally referred to as the GP Manual.
Beyond any of these points, Committee Member 3 questioned the purpose of the GP, stated or not.
- “We were never given any orientation as to why it exists ... I’ve heard that it exists because of some federal or state law, some college policy, and if that’s the case, that would complicate things … out of [the] whole committee, there was maybe one person who was a carry over from the GP before, and that person’s explanation of what the GP was for was not very creditable to any of us” (CM 3).
This Committee Member also offered that the Chair at the time did not know any more than anyone else about how the procedures were to operate.
Notification / Preparation
Accuser 2 had problems with the process almost from the start. She stated that in her first meeting with an ex officio member, things had gone well. He had been reassuring and kind, and had helped her and her friend make a decision about which route to take. However, “we reported it on a Monday, and then we didn’t hear anything for the rest of the week, until the following Tuesday. On Tuesday I got an email from [the Chair] saying that the hearing was going to be on Thursday and that we had a meeting with her on the next day” (A2). This is longer than the four days it is supposed to take the panel to inform the accuser of their decision, and this wait caused A2 considerable strife:
- “We didn’t hear anything for several days ... and we were scared out of our minds, I mean, he lived right across the street from us ... I couldn’t leave my room, my boyfriend at the time was walking me everywhere because I didn’t want to go anywhere by myself, I couldn’t ever be alone because I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going on” (A2).
In addition, Witness 1 said she never got her email notification until she got home from the trial (W1). According to the handbook, “[e]ach party may submit a list of witnesses no later than 5 days (120 hours) before the hearing. This list must be submitted to an ex officio. It is the ex officio’s responsibility to notify said witnesses” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p. 30). While there is no time limit given to this action, one would presume that the witness should be notified before the hearing at the very least. In addition, to return to Accuser 2’s account, there were more problems. The night before the trial, her witnesses had gone home and spoken to their parents. Apparently their parents wanted to see some kind of documentation about their children’s involvement, but there was nothing to show.
- “My two witnesses had called me and they were like, ‘where is my email notification?’ ... their parents weren’t going to let them testify unless the school made them, pretty much, they weren’t going to show up unless they had that email. And I was like; ‘well [the ex officio] was supposed to email you’” (A2).
Accuser 1 and a friend started to look for the ex officio member at 8:00 AM the morning of the hearing, and eventually found him at a local restaurant. They confronted him: “And I [said], ‘you need to email these people’, and he [said], ‘oh, that’s not my job’ and I was like ‘WHAT? Yeah, it is’. He said, ‘[the Chair] is supposed to do that’” (A2). After this confrontation, the accuser tried unsuccessfully to find the Chair, and eventually went to the Associate Dean of Students, who contacted another ex officio member to send the email out. As we saw in the earlier quote, it is the responsibility of the ex officio to notify the witnesses of their role in the GP.
Advisors and Advocates
After choosing witnesses, the parties are to identify advisors and advocates for themselves. There is great confusion about this piece – what is the difference between the two, which is which, who can be each, can one person be both, etc. On top of this, the Student Handbook states that “[t]he advocate may also serve as a party’s advisor” (p. 29), but it doesn’t work the other way around. Also, the advocate is referred to as a “trained member of the Knox community” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p. 29), yet there is no formal training in place. In my research, the recommendation on panel members’ understanding of the procedures and the issues involved with the cases they will likely be seeing is clear:
- “It seems necessary to have … one body of individuals, delegated by, and responsible to, the president of the college or company, who are specially knowledgeable about the nature of sexual harassment and trained to deal with both complaints and those accused of harassment fairly, sensitively, and confidentially”(Barickman, 1998, p. 44).
The chair reminds us that, when thinking of the role of advocates, to not be fooled by law TV shows, “they aren’t there to stand up and tell your story for you” (Chair). Not only is their role misunderstood, the two different roles of advocates and advisors are confusing.
The seriousness of this confusion of roles is evident in the case of Accuser 2. She and her friend felt misled about who could or could not be their advisor, so they had to pick out a new person when they were further along in the process, which caused problems later. In their first meeting with the ex officio, he told them that he could be their advisor, and that they would not need any witnesses. Upon meeting with the Chair later, they were informed that they would indeed need witnesses, and the ex officio would not be appropriate as an advisor. So at the last minute, they chose an advisor who was not prepared to fulfill this role, as will be seen later.
The Hearing: Structure
By the time individuals get to the actual case, there have already been many opportunities for things to go wrong. The hearing itself presents further challenges.
Leading up to entering the room and facing the panel, Accuser 2 was dissatisfied with the behavior of the ex officio member involved with her case. She mentioned that she and her friend were in the room, “freaking out”, knowing that their accused was across the hall. She purported that the ex officio member came in twenty minutes late, with an inappropriate demeanor. She found him to be very unsupportive, “he didn’t even know what we were going through” (A2).
Accuser 1 found great fault with the room set up for the hearing. In her case, she sat at one end of the table directly across from the accused.
- “The accuser should not have to sit across the table from the accused and have them stare at her and her witnesses the entire course of the hearing - and they had me move around. [The accused] sat in the same chair the entire time. I sat at the end of the table when I was talking and then I had to move and the witnesses rotated in and out of my chair. His witness rotated in and out of my chair and so I don’t think there is any need to fluster the victim any more than they already are going into it, it could have been arranged considerably differently” (A1) (emphasis hers).
Witness 1 also took issue with this system. She even went as far as to say that this set up could have an impact on the outcome of the hearing. In the case she was involved in, the woman’s witnesses had outside relationships with the man in question. Having to face him the way they were forced to while testifying against him may have discouraged them from saying all they could have said. The witness thinks that the outcome may have been different if the witnesses had not been intimidated: “It was scary sitting across from him” (W1) (emphasis hers).
On the other hand, there were positive things about this particular step. Great care seemed to be taken to keep the two parties separated from each other. Once a person enters the hearing, she or he may have to face down the other party, but speaking to them is not expected. From Accuser 1’s point of view,
- “I think that it’s a good idea that the accused and the victim not speak to each other directly, I think it’s a good idea that you have someone mediate the questions between them, because that could very easily become intimidating or heated … so I think that’s a good idea as long as the ex officio member can [stay] complete[ly] unbiased in their tone and demeanor” (A1).
From the point of view of Committee Member 2,
- “... Great effort is made to keep the two individuals separated throughout the entire hearing, waiting in separate rooms, the ex officio escorts those individuals to and from, et cetera, I liked that, avoiding chance meetings in the hallway, I think that’s very good. Again, I’m in the room and this is all happening outside of the room, so I can only assume that it’s working the way it should” (CM 2).
But it does seem to be working – there were no complaints from any of the students whom I spoke to about having to confront the other party in any manner.
The Hearing: Content
As one may expect, more and more frustrations surface as the trial goes on – from all involved. The process of questioning the accusers and their witnesses seems to be an issue of contention. Witnesses 1 made it clear that she felt that the questions she was asked were inappropriate because they had the wrong focus. She said that they asked her “‘why do you think she didn’t want to sleep with him?’” To which she responded, “‘I think that question is based on my opinion’, [their response was] ‘Well, it is definitely based on your opinion’, ‘Then my answer is, I don’t think she wanted to sleep with him because I don’t think she wanted to sleep with him’” (W1). There seems to be no reason to ask a witness to justify the choices of another person, and further, this question seems out of line with relevant information. Does the answer to the question have anything to do with his actions? They continued to ask the witness what she had been doing the rest of the night, insinuating that she should have been responsible for her friend. The witness characterized the atmosphere as “… intimidating, disorganized, very scary. I felt like I was walking on eggshells the entire time” (W1). These feelings of discomfort are not conducive to an environment in which students can freely express their concerns.
Witness 2 felt similarly attacked by the questioning. She came in prepared to answer clarification questions about her statement; she was not expecting to have to defend herself, as she felt she had to.
- “I was attacked more or less, my credibility: ‘how much did you have to drink that night, why were you here, why weren’t you doing this, what could you have done, why did you walk in on this’ ... you know, stuff like that, it wasn’t helping the case, it was completely damaging it ... And I feel like there’s nothing you can do when you have a room full of people you don’t know because you’re a freshman, first term, and there’s no one to stand up for you, you’re alone ... ” (W2).
On top of feeling unprepared for the reaction of the panel, the witness felt alone and isolated by the process. She also felt, as Witness 1 did, that the questions posed were of dubious relevance.
- “I think generally they wanted more information, but it was very clear that the information they wanted was very arbitrary, was just questions for questions sake, you know, there could have been no questions and that would have been sufficient … Once the first question was asked about how qualified I was to be a witness, then they just all started” (W2).
While it is an understandable part of any legal procedure to ascertain credibility, it seems that both the questions and how they were presented were not prepared as well as was possible.
Accuser 1 took issue with one specific point in the hearing: “[The accused] brought up and speculated on my sexual history”:
- “When it was his turn to tell his part of the story, he speculated about my sexual history and I was not allowed in my portion to ask him questions concerning other complaints that had been filed against him or anything of that nature, because it was considered talking about his sexual history that didn’t involve me. And so I tried to speak up and be like ‘Hey [Chair], he’s not allowed to do this’ and I was shushed and he was allowed to continue speaking. And that definitely went against the rules that are laid out in the handbook for this sort of thing, so I was very upset about that” (A1).
While this started as a problem introduced by the accused, it became a larger problem when the panel allowed it to continue. The Student Handbook clearly states that the complainant's sexual history (except as it involves sexual activity with the accused) is not to be discussed at the hearing: “The right not to have his/her sexual history discussed during the hearing, except as it involves the complainant’s past sexual activity with the accused” (Student Handbook, p.31). When panelists do not carry out the protections stated in the college's own regulations, students may lose confidence in the grievance procedures.
As suggested earlier, there were problems in Accuser 2’s case relating to her advisor. While she was listening to the account of the accused during the hearing, she said she was so shocked by his description of the events in question, “…does he really think this is what happened? Does he really think he’s telling the truth?”, that she “couldn’t think straight” (A2). She became so flustered that she was unable to come up with her own questions to propose to the accused, thus her advisor stepped in to ask questions that she thought would be appropriate. While the student says that she appreciated this, she notes that her advisor “didn’t know what kinds of questions not to ask, she didn’t have any kind of legal background ... you need someone there who is going to be your lawyer ... because it’s a trial, they say it’s not, but it is” (A2). Witness 1, who was involved in this same case, was also frustrated by the advisor’s lack of experience. She says that the advisor did her job well, but didn’t really know what was going on, didn’t know how to appropriately fulfill her role (W1). I asked the Chair what her opinion was on whether more experienced lawyers or outside observers should be involved. Her response was: who would that person be, how would you choose them and what role would they play? This would take the issues outside of our community, and if that is the goal, then maybe it is a case that the police should see.
- “Its like a neighborhood watch group [the GP], that’s in many ways how it kind of operates, that they’re there to kind of protect its own community and secure its community and be there to support it. If you’re going to bring in other people, I would say, why not then just go to the police. I know it’s easy for me to say that, and as a woman I know that’s not always easy to do” (Chair).
Different frustrations arose from the vantage points of the panel members. While the students were overwhelmed by the amount of questioning, the panel members were often overwhelmed by the lack of expertise and information they seemed to have.
- “We’re not trained for this type of thing ... we’re not trained investigators, we’re not lawyers, we’re not, most of us, none of us, are administrators ... and we don’t have access to investigators or lawyers, everything is done in a rush-rush type of fashion … none of these people are under oath, people are friends of each other, and you know, people lie for their friends … I think what you’re doing with the GP is you’re asking people who aren’t qualified to investigate and punish people, and have no tools to investigate and punish people, to investigate and punish people” (CM3) (emphasis added).
Because this committee member felt that he did not have the background and resources to do his job, he was frustrated with what he was able to bring to the process.
Professional literature emphasizes the importance of training programs for those involved in grievance procedures.
- “The most important feature of an effective policy statement and investigatory procedures on sexual harassment is a training program designed to enforce this policy. Effective training programs send an important message to all members of the organization [in this case, school] that sexual harassment will not be tolerated by administrators” (Paludi, 2003, p. 191).
In addition to formal training on procedures, it would be beneficial to have specific training on the effects of harassment and sexual misconduct on survivors, and even background training for the panel members on what to expect to hear from accusers. Some accusations that came from students focused on their frustrations with what they perceived to be inappropriately informal behavior on the part of ex officio members or panel members. Accuser 2 noted that upon his arrival to the hearing, the ex officio was dressed extremely casually and displayed an inappropriately upbeat demeanor. Perhaps this could have been avoided with a better understanding of the situation.
- “… [T]he point of having [a panel] that deals solely with [sexual misconduct issues] is so that they can be very educated in that area and can be very aware of issues that come up in that area, and I don’t feel like our GP is. They could have so much more knowledge concerning state laws and rules and regulations ... they could be [better] versed in issues of sexual assault and harassment and things like that. They should know what victims deal with in going through procedures like this and things like that ... It’s a very specialized panel and so they should be very specialized in their knowledge concerning this stuff, and so it’s a good idea to have a particular board, but we need to make sure that they are very well trained in the specific issue they deal with” (A1).
Accuser 1 agrees that a certain level of education would be extremely beneficial to ensuring that the processes operate more smoothly.
Burden of Evidence
Because the GP is not set up to be a legal trial, there are limitations on what evidence can be provided. The primary data that the panel has used to make decisions in the past include statements from the students involved and security reports. Because of this, one panel member felt that she was not getting enough information in the hearing.
- “Just as in the court room, we are encouraged to look at facts and base decisions on evidence, and that’s why I was frustrated. In my experience, there is very little hard evidence, so it comes down to a case of ‘he said’, ‘she said’ and I just can’t tell you how difficult that is to be in a position where you are expected to have an outcome … At the end of the night the panel is supposed to arrive at a decision and it’s just very difficult to do that if you don’t have factual evidence in front of you” (CM 2).
This creates a great conflict – while the students going through the process are burdened by the constant questioning, at least this one Committee Member feels that there is not enough information to make a completely informed decision. In addition, concerns of fairness frequently revolve around the dilemma of whose word to trust when other evidence is lacking. As the below quote illustrates, counting on what we consider to be typical evidence is problematic when these are the only pieces of evidence that are taken into consideration.
- “First, the requirement of corroborative evidence, such as bruises or semen, disadvantaged victims when no such evidence was to be found. Second, the requirement of a ‘fresh complaint,’ a complaint made almost immediately after the alleged attack, was thought to prevent alleged victims from making up their stories after the fact but disadvantaged victims who were too embarrassed or too terrified or too upset to come forth quickly. Third, the requirement of resistance to demonstrate unwillingness … burdened women to act, despite perceived danger, or forfeit their complaint. And fourth, evidentiary rules that presumed the relevance of the woman’s past sexual history apparently left women on trial as much as men. These rules combined to create a regime that protected defendants except in the clearest case of ‘real rape,’ violence against a stranger” (Francis, 2001, p.119).
This hits at a problem in the fundamental way we look at cases of sexual misconduct. Earlier in her statement, Committee Member 2 questioned the first steps of the process, wondering if when an incident is first reported, could there be a better way of making sure information is gathered. But if we take the Francis quotation to heart, this kind of documentation or evidence may not help as much as would be ideal. Without getting too far off subject, it may also be noted that these observations could be applied to the legal system as well, hence, either making the GP more like the legal system, or reverting to it may revel little to no benefit. It should be noted that the issues surrounding evidence in grievance cases are undeniably difficult, and I am not proposing any easy answers.
Even with these concerns, it is often said by the members that they are truly doing the best job they can do, working hard and taking the process seriously. Committee Member 2 says that the decision making process is never taken lightly, and long discussions go into the decision, “…I know how we all struggle to arrive at that decision. The last case I was involved in, we began at 5 pm and ended at 2:00 in the morning” (CM2). The Chair recognizes this commitment in the panel members: “I have great respect for other committee members and their ability to focus on the information we have at hand. It is not easy” (Chair). This could lead to even more frustration from the panel: that they are working so hard and putting so much into it and getting such an unsatisfying end product.
Deciding on a Verdict
After the frustrations of the hearing, there then comes the anticipation of the verdict. This is what each party has been waiting for, the final judgment that, in the minds of those involved, determines whose story is strong enough. In reality, this call can only be a determination of whether or not there is enough evidence to find someone in violation of the Knox College conduct code (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p.42). Either way, there is no less pressure on the panel. “After each case, I thought about it for days, I struggled with it, I was never one hundred percent sure in my mind that we as a panel did the right thing. I felt that each time we did the only thing we could do, based on what we had before us” (CM 2). Predictably, the verdict is very closely tied to the burden of proof, and so frustrations from that aspect easily carry over.
- “It’s very difficult to decide on a verdict when again, you are unsure of your facts and you’re just kind of having to get a sense, just almost a gut sense, of who's lying, who’s telling the truth, who thinks they’re telling the truth, or telling the truth from their perspective, but you don’t trust what they’re saying for other reasons, or you do trust what they’re saying - it’s very difficult then to get a verdict other than there is some blame to go around …” (CM 3).
In the four cases that the students I interviewed were involved in, the accused was found not in violation of the Knox College conduct code (with the exception of one case, to be addressed later). Witness 1 was frustrated by this finding and says she ran the events of the trial by “some people who know how law works”, and they seemed to think that the outcome would have been the same in a “perfect” trial (W1). This brings us to question the root of her frustrations – there was ultimately no justice served, by way of the accuser’s concerns, or the effects on the accused. Her great frustration is that nothing happened to the man – he was found ‘innocent’ (not in violation of the code of conduct), and received no punishment. They “didn’t attempt to help the survivors”, by trying to protect them, provide sanctions, nothing (W1). Witness 2 had similar concerns about the trial ending with no other kind of closure, no further resolution, “and what happened was nothing. No resolution, no saying why. No – ‘the committee said no, but here’s how we can help you, here is what we can do for you’ - nothing. No. Done. And there was nothing further after that” (W2). There is a feeling of being abandoned, and she goes even further, “the college treats us with so much respect and they treat us with such dignity, and they cover our butts all the time, but when it comes to grievance board, I feel, they let you loose and they don’t. They don’t take care of the victim” (W2). Even though the panel members work hard and try to come out with an appropriate conclusion, this step should not be seen as the end of the process.
There are other reactions on top of this: these results can be damaging to those involved. There is clearly more than the frustration of the end result of the hearing, there is also a frustration with the way in which the testimonies of the accused or the witness’ are questioned.
- “No one gave me the benefit of the doubt … why the fuck would I lie about this? Why would I put myself through this if it didn’t happen? I have absolutely no reason to lie and every reason in the world not to do a damn thing about it and to just say - it happened, May 14, 2004, that’s so long ago, I could have ... lived happily under my rock, knowing that it happened, but not done anything about it, but I wanted to stand up for myself, and I wanted to stand up for [my friend], and for every other girl that he had done this to and was going to do this to, and every girl this had ever happened to ... I had every reason not to go through this, and I chose to do it anyway, and I get treated like a piece of shit, like a lying slut” (A2).
Accuser 2 felt the effects of both problems – she was frustrated by the end result, but also significantly frustrated by the way she perceived her testimony to be treated. This sort of treatment is alienating and unproductive – rather than empowering individuals to take more action (see appeals below) or encouraging others to go the route she went, it encourages individuals to choose to NOT use things like the GP. In addition to this disempowerment, there was concern from Witness 2 about how her statements were treated, especially as someone who had been an eyewitness to one of the incidents in question.
- “When you have witnesses to actual things that happened, like, when you see it, and you have a first person witness and it’s not hearsay, and then they come back with ‘they didn’t do anything wrong’ as the result, well, it’s sort of like I’m a liar ... you know I felt like I was a liar then, because what I said wasn’t true because he got off, or, like, nothing happened to him. So it was really frustrating because it was just like going through the process, being all emotional, being all involved in this process, and then being called a liar at the end - it’s just not beneficial to anyone” (W2).
Witness 2 touches on an issue of a crisis of legitimacy – the system that she perceived to be genuine and operational turned out to fail her, and she thus looses faith in it, and therefore questions her role within it. Accuser 1 had similar concerns.
- “According to Illinois state law, [it would have been considered] sexual misconduct because I [was] incapacitated due to alcohol, and so the GP said there was insufficient evidence. And I don’t see how that is - I mean, no, I didn’t blow on a breathalyzer or anything, but there were several witnesses to corroborate what I was saying, and he had none, and so that was very frustrating that they took his word over the word of several other people. Especially ... They probably didn’t know that he had plagiarized a paper and things like that, and so was not probably the most trustworthy person - which was also frustrating that the GP was not privy to other sorts of guilty, conviction [type] things that had involved him on campus” (A1).
While it has been explained that the GP exists to be an on-campus resource, it is clear that students are frustrated with this role. Or perhaps, as the Chair alluded to, they are expecting too much from this system, and holding legal systems in too high a regard. Witness 1 admitted that things might have been the same in a legal trial. But I would contend that these frustrations go beyond the expected disappointment of a “not guilty” verdict. “Research has documented that the experience of participating in an investigative process can be as emotionally and physically stressful as the sexual harassment itself” (Paludi, 2003, p.186). This is a strong statement – and causes us to pause and consider the gravity of our process even further than we already do. There needs to be an understanding that this process is deeply emotional and effects individuals’ lives in ways far beyond the incident in question and the subsequent hearing.
- “… [P]rocedures for investigation of complaints of sexual harassment must take into account the psychological issues involved in the victimization process, including individuals’ feelings of powerlessness, isolation, changes in social network patterns, and wish to gain control over their personal and career development” (Paludi, 2003, p.185).
We have even seen these effects in the lives of the women in the case of Accuser 2, who was currently studying off campus at the time of this writing (while the other woman involved with the case has left Knox College entirely).
- “I’m so scared to go back, because I do have to go back, I don’t have a choice, I’m going to have to see [the president], I’m going to have to see [the accused] … I shouldn’t have had to come out here, I should have been able to live my life - this wasn’t in the plan … I feel like I was kicked off campus. I know he’s still there... living the life he planned to live, and I had to do a complete reversal ... and it’s really hard because I love my friends there and I used to love the school, and they betrayed me, and I don’t want to run away, but that’s what I did by coming here” (A2).
This speaks directly to Paludi’s quote: Accuser 2 feels more in control now that she is off campus, and fears returning. She is very honest about the fact that she is off campus as a direct result of the incident and the subsequent case. It is incredibly unfortunate that these women had to leave campus to regain a sense of control; it seems that this could have been avoided with proper attention to their needs after the case closed.
There is nothing easy about the job the Committee Members have to do. This was made abundantly clear to me as I interviewed Committee Member 2, who became very emotional while discussing her frustrations with the process.
- “It’s just tough ... it’s just not what I expected. You know, I walk away and I think - I hope that young man is truthful ... that’s all it is, that’s how I go to sleep the next night - I hope that young man is telling the truth … because if he isn’t, then have we, as the panel, given him the freedom to repeat his action again? ... It’s hard...” (CM2).
This kind of self-doubt comes from her inability to tell if the panel is doing an effective job – are they doing everything they could be doing? She is left to wonder if they are unable to catch lies and misinformation, and if this leaves the panel responsible.
On top of these concerns, the panel members face stresses not dissimilar to those of the students’. “It’s incredibly emotional. You almost have to be emotionally removed; otherwise you’ll rip yourself apart. These [students] are not strangers …” (Chair). While the emotional effects of the students going through the GP process may be underestimated, the effects on the panel members are completely overlooked.
Immediately after receiving the verdict, Accuser 1 decided to make an appeal. According to her (I was not privy to these records), this would be the first time anyone had ever made an appeal to the GP’s decision (later, Accuser 2 would make the second appeal). While there is a section in the Student Handbook on what constitutes grounds for an appeal, there is nothing outlining how it works, and as we know, there is no GP Manual for the administration to refer to. The handbook states that one may file an appeal as per the rights of the Complainant or the rights of the Accused:
- “The right to appeal to the President of the College on any of the following grounds:
- Failure of the GP to follow the procedures set forth herein;
- Bias on the part of the GP or any members of the Panel
- New information unavailable at the time of the original proceeding” (Student Handbook ’05-’06, p.31).
Accuser 1 made the appeal on the grounds that the comments on her sexual history went against procedure and had caused bias, and new evidence had come to light.
Upon hearing about Accuser 1’s GP case, a female student approached her and shared with her some previously unknown information. This woman not only claimed to have been sexually assaulted by the same man, but she also stated that he had spoken to her about the incident involving Accuser 1. “… [S]he said that he had told her that he knew I was drunk and that he had sex with me anyway, even though he knew I was drunk” (A1). This statement is in complete opposition to what the accused was claiming in the trial, which was that the encounter was consensual. Accuser 1 took this information to the president, along with the claim that the speculation on her sexual history had caused bias on the part of the committee.
- “A few days later I got the decision back from [the president], and he said that he didn’t feel that [the accused] speculating on my sexual history had biased the panel in any way, and so it didn’t have any effect, and he also said that I should have found this other girl before even going to the GP. So he decided to just let the sanctions stand as they were. Which was frustrating because there was no way for me to know that he had said this to this girl - she came up and told me about this because she had heard that I was going to the GP about it - and so she came up to me a couple of days too late, and so he decided that that was not good enough. So I’m not really sure what the definition of new evidence would be if apparently you’re supposed to find it all before you go the GP” (A1).
Even though there had been no precedent set as far as the appeals process is concerned, this example appears to unquestionably fulfill at least the last point of the grounds for appeals.
In the case of Accuser 1, the accused was found not in violation of the conduct code for the count of sexual misconduct – but he was found in violation on the count of sexual harassment. The sanctions specified that he had to stay 30 yards away from Accuser 1 (and one of her witnesses) at all times, and he had to perform some community service before graduation (the details of which were not made known to Accuser 1). Even before the appeals process had begun, he had already broken the sanctions.
- “The last time [it happened] before the appeal hearing they told him and they told me that if it happened again, they would separate him from the college. We had the appeal hearing, and [the president] was like, ‘you understand, if you break these sanctions again, you will be separated from the college’. And he said ‘yes, I understand’. So that was cleared up. And the next night, the very next night, he sat back to back to me in the cafeteria ... And he sat there for about ten to fifteen minutes, he walked by me three times, we made eye contact” (A1) (emphasis hers).
She called the Dean of Students that night, who assured her that something would be done before the weekend was out. However, it was two weeks before anyone spoke with the accused, who denied the incident, and so no action was taken.
- “Finally, just this year, after him breaking the sanctions several times after that incident, did they decide that they would remove him from board so that we wouldn’t have to deal with seeing each other in the cafeteria … because he couldn’t stay away from me … it got to the point where my room mate and I would carry a digital camera around so that she could document him sitting this close to me … it was really frustrating, because every time they would just ask him and he would deny it, and so they would just believe him every single time, and nothing was ever done, despite the fact that they told me he would be removed from the college” (A1).
In addition to her frustrations about the first part of the sanctions, Accuser 1 felt that she should have been notified as to the information about the community service.
- “ … [A]ll I know is sometime between now and May he has to fulfill some indeterminate amount of community service, somewhere, and I don’t think that’s fair, and I think that me, being the person that took him to the GP, that I should be privy to the sanctions, and what they are” (A1).
As it related to both parts of the sanction, Accuser 1 was concerned about the lack of any enforcement. The handbook only says that the panel will dispense sanctions, but does not give any further detail. There are no specifics as to how the accused will be held accountable.
- “[T]he GP needs to be on top of enforcing sanctions. I don’t know if it was intended for the panel to be the group that enforces sanctions, or not, but there needs to be some group that enforces sanctions, because this happened over a year ago, and no one had asked him about community service until I harped on them about it this winter term - a whole year had passed and no one had said anything about it - and I very strongly believe that had I not brought it up no one else would have brought it up and he would have left Knox without having ever fulfilled the second half of his sanctions” (A1).
This is undoubtedly a piece that was overlooked in the original formation of the GP and needs to be revisited.
Aspects to Preserve
As critical as my interviewees were about the process, there was almost always one facet they could name that was worth preserving, and in the case of Accuser 1, more than one:
- “I think that it’s a good idea that the accused and the victim not speak to each other directly … that you have someone mediate the questions between them. I think it’s good that we have students that sit on the panel as well as faculty and staff … the concept of an advocate definitely needs to be preserved. I don’t know what I would have done without [mine], I still call her or email her to talk about this when things come up and stuff like that so, that’s definitely something that needs to be preserved as part of the procedures” (A1).
Committee Member 2 also felt that keeping a distance between the accused and the accuser was valuable. She is previously quoted speaking in favor of the physical separation that occurs when an ex officio escorts one party in and out of the hearing as to avoid any ‘chance meetings’ in the hall. One of the other points that Accuser 1 mentions is also helpful – to have a diverse panel has clear benefits. With this in mind, we are reminded that the Chair stands by her position on the make up of the committee – specifically that it should not include anyone outside of the college. The last point on advocates should be reflected upon as well. While this position may be confusing, once it is implemented correctly, it seems to have a major impact.
In a larger sense, Committee Member 2 made it clear that she was in favor of having this system, regardless of its flaws
- “In summary, it’s very good that Knox has [these] procedures in place, it does provide a forum for this type of case to be heard. I realize that the outcome has not been satisfactory for all involved, but given the alternative, of having no resource, nowhere to turn when someone is in that situation – that is so much worse” (CM2).
However, the ever-skeptical Committee member 3 was not sure that even a flawed system was valuable.
- “I think that it’s important to have a system for addressing people’s grievances, particularly students … but … I think it’s almost worse to have a mechanism that is really seen as a farce, you know, by people who serve on it, by the student body. I think that’s worse than having any system at all, because if you don’t have any system at all then you know that, and you pursue avenues outside of the college, which is everybody’s right to do” (CM3).
Accuser 2 might share these same sentiments – when asked what she would preserve, she paused before delivering her opinion: “No. I’m really trying to think, but the whole thing was shit. No, nothing”(A2). Yet, she still had suggestions for improvements, so perhaps she has not completely given up on the GP’s potential.
I respectfully submit the following points as recommendations to the Knox College Grievance Panel Procedures, as a direct result of my research.
- Our GP procedures and ex officio members need to be made more public. There should be a great deal of education on what the GP is, how it works and how to access it. For example, this may be done by way of extra programming on campus or printing the procedures in the school newspaper and/or course list.
- There needs to be a GP Manual for the Committee Members to follow when going through the procedures. This document would be a more helpful guide than just the Student Handbook, which does not include information on how to run a hearing.
- The GP procedures need to be adhered to more strictly. There are too many insistences of individuals straying from the rules as they are laid out in the Student Handbook. Also, there needs to be prepared a yearly report by the Chair of the GP, as is called for in the Student Handbook.
- Any part of the GP procedure that is unclear or deemed to be improper needs to be clarified. For example, the roles of the Advisor and the Advocate, and the concerns about the room set up for the hearing. This also includes the appeals process and the enforcement of sanctions.
- Committee Members must go through some kind of training, a mock trial at the very least. The panel must not only know how to run the GP, they must also be aware of all of the complex issues that come with cases of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
- The GP process should not end with the closing of the hearing. Individuals should consider counseling to be a part of the process, and the school should be sure that this is made available.
While I have my own recommendations to make based on the specifics of the Knox College GP process, other general information on grievance processes should be considered at all points when any changes to our process are to be considered. To encourage this idea, I have attached in the appendix “Components of an Effective Grievance Procedure” which came out of one of the books I used for research.
In the process of writing this paper, issues with the GP have received more attention than ever before in my time at Knox College. There have been numerous articles in the school paper (The Knox Student) and much debate on campus. The previously mentioned Student Senate ad-hoc committee was formed and brought a resolution to the Student Senate body. The Faculty Affairs Subcommittee (frequently referred to as FASCom) has submitted to the President of the College a recommendation on the GP (the text of which had not been released at the time of this writing). There are rumors that the president is planning on forming his own committee to address the issues that have arisen as of late. In addition, there was a very public case of sexual misconduct this spring term – not only did the accuser chose to go through the GP, but she also opted to file with the Galesburg Police Department.
Hopefully this attention will not fade with the changing of terms and the passage of summer and the student body will be ready to join with the administration to make necessary changes to the Grievance Procedures.
I would like to acknowledge all of the hard work that had to happen throughout this project to make it come to fruition. The panel members who offered their time to speak to me outside of their busy schedules are the backbone of this study. The students who gave the same also provided invaluable information, and they have my respect for trusting me with their stories. In addition, the Dean of Students has continually supported this research and provided information and assistance. The Knox Student has welcomed input when writing their own stories on the GP. Last but not least, my advisor has pushed me the entire way to constantly improve upon my research.
Appendix A: Text of Correspondence
Email Sent to whole campus (students/staff/faculty):
“Megan Gamble is working on a senior research project on the Knox Grievance Panel Procedures and how they might be improved. She would like to interview students who have had any experience with these procedures, whether as a complainant, accused, advisor, or advocate. Please contact HER (DON’T HIT REPLY) if you would be willing to be interviewed: firstname.lastname@example.org or Box K-650. All information will be confidential.”
Email Sent to Panel members:
“To current and past members of the college Grievance Panel,
I am doing my senior research project on Knox's grievance procedures, and would like to talk with past and current members of the panel. The focus of my research is the structure of the grievance process, both as written and as played out in cases. My central questions are: What elements of the structure and process contribute to satisfaction, which to dissatisfaction, and what changes might improve general satisfaction with the grievance procedures? I am not seeking confidential information or details about any individual cases.
I am interviewing students who have been involved with grievance procedures, and would also very much like to talk with members of the panel. Could you please let me know if you would be willing to talk with me?
Thanks for whatever help you can give.
Appendix B: Components of an Effective Grievance Procedure
From: Brandenburg, Judith Berman. Confronting Sexual Harassment, What Schools and Colleges Can Do. New York: Teachers College Press, 1997. p 56-57.
The following components of a grievance procedure may increase its effectiveness, irrespective of the model.
- The policy statement prohibiting sexual harassment and describing grievance procedures should include clear definitions of the behaviors covered.
- The statement should be widely publicized.
- A person on campus should be designated as the Title IX compliance officer and his or her name and address made available to the community.
- A sexual harassment advisor or counselor should be appointed.
- More than one person should be designated as the point of entry into the process (a specific group of people should be designated by name).
- A grievance board or panel that represents campus or school constituents should be designated to receive sexual harassment complaints.
- Persons responsible for handling complaints should be trained.
- The investigative, advocacy, and judgment roles of the grievance procedure should be clearly distinguished.
- Symmetry in protecting the rights of the person complaining and the person accused should be provided.
- The procedure should include an informal as well as a formal stage.
- Confidentiality should be an integral part of the procedure and ensured to the extent possible.
- Prompt and timely adjudication should be the goal of the process.
- A thorough and impartial investigation of complaints, including an opportunity for the complainants to present evidence, should be included.
- The procedures should note that interim corrective action during an investigation may be appropriate (e.g. change of off-campus placement).
- Designated time frames for the filing, investigation, and resolution of complaints should be included.
- Results should be communicated to involve parties at the end of the investigation.
- The right to appeal an outcome should be included.
- False accusations as well as retaliation against those making honest complaints should be prohibited.
- An annual summary of complaints should be published that provides the gender and status of the persons involved.
- The campus as well as off-campus placement sites should be educated about the issues of sexual harassment.
Appendix C: Grievance Panel “Cheat Sheet”
Notes to aid accusers, as prepared by SASS. Next two pages attached.
A grievance panel will be appointed by the President of the College to hear all cases of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.
The panel members include two faculty, two staff and two students as well as two non-voting ex officio members. There is also one student, staff and faculty alternate.
The college is required to report instances of forcible and non-forcible sex offences for the annual crime statistics report. This statistical report does not include personally identifiable information. A record will be kept of all cases if accused is a student, faculty member or a staff member.
Grievance procedures are more likely to have a favorable outcome if the complaint is brought to the college’s attention as soon as possible. Please note that only formal grievances result in disciplinary action. The college generally encourages students to resolve grievances through informal procedures. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of an informal procedure you may still request a formal grievance procedure.
Informal Procedures To initiate informal proceedings, a grievance should be brought to any faculty or staff member of the Grievance Panel. Then you and that faculty or staff member will together select another faculty or staff member from the panel to hear the grievance.
You and the panel members will explore the complaint and decide upon an appropriate course of action. A panel member or college officer will discuss with you the possible outcomes of each of the steps of the informal procedure. There are the three options:
- You may request that a college officer or panel member speak directly to the person you are complaining against to resolve the grievance. At your request, your identity may remain anonymous.
- Your second option is to be present at the meeting with the person complained against to resolve the grievance.
- Finally, another member of the college community may be asked to meet separately with each party to resolve the grievance. (This is another route to mediation with the intent of giving you more options and making you more comfortable.)
Formal Procedural Guidelines
Filing a complaint
To file a formal complaint, contact an ex officio member of the Grievance Panel. The ex officio member will notify the chair of the panel. The timeline of grievance procedures begins once a formal complaint is filed (see timeline, opposite side). You will be asked to make a formal written complaint, which should include as many details as possible such as names, places and times. The exact charges should also be explicitly stated (i.e., discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and/or sexual misconduct). The panel will meet and discuss your complaint and vote on whether or not it’s appropriate for their review or should be forwarded to another body (Some cases are better served in other committees). The panel will decide within two days. You will be notified within four days of the filing if the panel will hold a hearing to address your complaint. You and the accused will be notified by a mailbox letter, an email and by phone so you can both pick up an “important packet” (which consists of a detailed letter containing all information pertinent to the case and the procedure; the packet may also include a handbook for reference).
Advocates and Advisors
Both you and the accused may choose an advocate and an advisor. The Advocate’s role is to provide support and information prior to the hearing regarding any area pertaining to the procedure. You are not required to choose an advocate; however, it is strongly recommended that you have an advocate in going through these procedures to guide, direct and talk for or represent you. The role of the Advisor is to provide you moral support and advice. You can choose an advisor who is typically a friend, a student, or someone your own age. However, your advocate can also act as your advisor. Your advisor cannot act as a witness but may submit questions in written form to be asked in the hearing. Witnesses Each party may submit a list of witnesses to an ex officio member no later than 5 days before the hearing. The ex officio will notify the witnesses. Witnesses may ask the ex officio member to be excused from the hearing. This request will be made by the ex officio members of the panel. Witnesses will be notified within 24 hours of the hearing if they are excused from appearing at the hearing or not. Witnesses who are excused from the hearing may be asked to submit a written testimony. [Also please see the handbook: “Rights of the Witness”]
Half an hour before the hearing is scheduled to begin; each party (including the advisor, you/the accused, and all witnesses to that party) will meet for pre-hearing preparation. An ex officio member will deliver to each party a final list of all witnesses at this time. Parties may write questions to be asked of witnesses during the hearing and may confer with their own witnesses. The ex officio members will escort all parties into and out of the hearing. During the hearing all questions submitted will be read. Questions may be asked and submitted at any time during the hearing until the closing statements. Voting members of the Grievance Panel may ask their own questions.
Notification of Findings
Once the panel has reached its verdict, both parties will be notified via phone of the Grievance Panel’s decision within 24 hours. Each party will also receive a letter from the chair of the Grievance Panel that includes the final verdict, reasoning and sanctions imposed. A signature is requested from each party to verify that the letter was received.
Each party has the right to submit an appeal of the panel’s verdict and/or sanctions to the President of the College. This appeal must be filed within 3 school days of the party’s notification of the verdict.
Ex Officio Members of the Grievance Panel, 2005:
Timeline of Events for a Formal Hearing With the Grievance Panel
- A formal complaint may be issued at any time, and all events on this timeline are dependent on when the complaint is filed. It is in the complainant’s interest to file the complaint as soon as possible.
- Within two days of the complaint the Grievance Panel will decide if the complaint warrants a hearing.
- The accused has the right to be notified in writing of the charges no later than seven days before the hearing.
- Within four days of the complaint, if the Grievance Panel votes to hold a formal hearing, the accused and the complainant will be notified of the decision.
- Each party may submit a list of witnesses no later than five days before the hearing.
- If a witness cannot attend the hearing, he or she must let the Grievance Panel know in writing no later than three days before the hearing. The Grievance Panel will decide whether or not to allow the absence of the witness within 24 hours of this notification.
- Within ten days of the complaint, the formal hearing will take place. The complainant has the right to a hearing no more than ten days following the complaint.
- Any and all written testimony to the hearing must be submitted no later than 24 hours before the hearing.
- Each party (including witnesses and advisors) will meet for a preparation session half and hour before the hearing.
- The Grievance Panel has in the past taken an average of 5-7 hours to reach a verdict. However, there is no limit on how long they are allowed to deliberate.
- Once the panel has reached its verdict, both parties will be notified via phone of the Grievance Panel’s decision within 24 hours.
- Either party may appeal the panel’s decision no later than three school days after this notification.
Heather Poppy (x7493), John Haslem ( x7151)
A1 (Accuser 1), Personal Interview, 28 February 2006.
A2 (Accuser 2), Personal Interview, 23 February 2006.
Chair (Chair of the Committee), Personal Interview, 10 February 2006.
CM2 (Committee Member 2), Personal Interview, 14 February 2006.
CM3 (Committee Member 3), Personal Interview, 17 February 2006.
W1 (Witness 1), Personal Interview, 6 February 2006.
W2 (Witness 2), Personal Interview, 10 February 2006.
Barickman, Richard B. and Michele A. Paludi. Academic and Workplace Sexual Harassment, A Resource Manual. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.
Barickman, Richard B. and Michele A. Paludi. Sexual Harassment, Work, and Education, A Resource Manual for Prevention. 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.
Brandenburg, Judith Berman. Confronting Sexual Harassment, What Schools and Colleges Can Do. New York: Teachers College Press, 1997.
Cullen, Francis T., Bonnie S. Fisher, Michael G. Turner. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, 2000.
Cutting, JoAnne C, Patricia H. Murrell and Robert O. Riggs. Sexual Harassment in Higher Education: From Conflict to Community, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 2. Washington D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development, 1993.
Dziech, Billie Wright and Linda Weiner. The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment on Campus. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984.
Dziech, Billie Wright and Micheal W. Hawkins. Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, Reflections and New Perspectives. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998.
Fitzgerald, Louis. “Institutional Policies and Procedures.” Combating Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. Lott, Bernice and Mary Ellen Reilly, Ed.s. Washington D.C.: National Education Association of the United States, 1996. p. 129-140.
Francis, Leslie Pickering. Sexual Harassment as an Ethical Issue in Academic Life. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Hotelling, Kathy and Allen J. Ottens, Ed.s. Sexual Violence on Campus, Policies, Programs, and Perspectives. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2001.
Paludi, Carmen A. Jr., and Michele Paludi. Academic and Workplace Sexual Harassment, A Handbook of Cultural, Social Science, Management, and Legal Perspectives. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2003.
Paludi, Michele A., Ed. Ivory Power, Sexual Harassment on Campus. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.
Sandler, Bernice R. “No Means No”, Sexual Harassment and Date Rape. Washington D.C.: Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, 1993.
Student Handbook, “Knox College Student Handbook 2005-2006”