Title IX Advisory Board Advances; Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr Retained to Examine Claims

5 min read

Liz Foster ’22

Managing Editor

Trinity’s Title IX Advisory Board, together with a new Title IX officer, will be appointed by the end of the semester as a part of Trinity’s commitments to combatting sexual misconduct in the wake of student concerns raised over the summer by the activist Instagram account @trinsurvivors. The Tripod has also learned that the College has employed the firm of Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr, LLP of Philadelphia, with offices in Boston and New York, to oversee the investigation of anonymous claims on the @trinsurvivors account. 

In her email earlier this month, Berger-Sweeney apologized for the “amount of time it is has [sic] taken” for the administration to respond, indicating that the delay was necessary to craft a sufficient response. A previous email from Berger-Sweeney in early July had drawn ire from the account and other students for its inaction. The College indicated last week that senior administrators had met with representatives of the account earlier this summer.

A Title IX Advisory Board, consisting of students, faculty, and staff, will be formed in an effort to provide recommendations for various “programs, policies, and educational initiatives.” Berger-Sweeney will not exclusively be appointing members to the board, according to Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas, and the College will “work with students and the Student Government Association to identify student members of the advisory board.” The Board will be seated by the end of the semester, Rojas continued, and is part of the College’s asserted “unwavering commitment” to combatting sexual misconduct. 

The board will work alongside the Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator on relevant issues surrounding sexual misconduct. The board will also have access to the 2019 spring campus climate survey results. Regarding the position search, the College is “engaged in the process of interviewing candidates for the position,” according to Rojas, and Trinity will “make a decision during the fall semester.” A series of virtual, public interview sessions of potential candidates are scheduled for Sept. 15 and Sept. 17, among the “ample opportunities” outlined by Berger-Sweeney earlier this month for community input. The session on Sept. 15, however, was postponed due to unresolved on-campus internet connectivity issues. 

Trinity’s selected firm, Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr, retained in late August, will “review and analyze the allegations on @trinsurvivors and @blackattrin Instagram accounts” and produce a “comprehensive report” that will impact the College’s future actions in response to allegations of discrimination at Trinity. Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas indicated that this firm was selected because it had “significant experience in Title IX and other anti-discrimination laws.” While the firm will not “investigate specific allegations or complaints,” it will produce a confidential report that will be used to review “relevant college policies and procedures.” 

The firm may also conduct “informal interviews, as necessary and appropriate.” The report will remain “confidential” despite not considering specific allegations or complaints, as Rojas indicated that the matters are “sensitive” and “should be handled in a confidential manner.” Rojas declined to specify whether the firm would attempt to corroborate anonymous accounts with filed reports, though did note that the firm has been “asked to review all relevant reports that we are aware of.”   

Trinity’s Interim Title IX policy, created in response to the Department of Education’s guidelines, was released to the community in mid-August. The Title IX working group which evaluated and revised the interim sexual harassment policy, as previously reported, has met “almost weekly over the past three months” and will revise the policy after additional public comment and input. 

The interim sexual harassment policy, Berger-Sweeney added in her September email, will continue to “use the ‘preponderance of evidence’ stand for adjudicating complaints,” rather than the “clear and convincing” standard permitted by the Department of Education. Continuing the use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard was among the demands of @trinsurvivors circulated in July. 

Preventative practices serve as another measure of protecting against sexual misconduct, Berger-Sweeney explained, emphasizing that sexual assault is “not tolerated and must be eliminated from campus.” The administration also plans to enforce “sanctions that discipline violators appropriately, prevent recurrence, and remedy the harm to individuals and the community as a whole.” Referencing the College’s commitment to “eliminating sexual misconduct,” Berger-Sweeney further explained that it would address “campus climate” and strengthen “policies and procedures” related to sexual assault education. Trinity committed to continuing “Title IX education and prevention programs including Green Dot” and intends to have mandatory training on “sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention strategies” for juniors and seniors. Those workshops are set to occur in the 2020-2021 academic year and will begin in “mid-October,” according to Rojas. 

Trinity also pledged “$100,000 to support these important educational and prevention efforts.” Those funds, according to Rojas, will be allocated “to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, of which WGRAC [Women and Gender Resource Action Center] is a part.”  While WGRAC will be a “recipient of a substantial amount of those funds,” Rojas indicated that the diversity office “more broadly will continue to work collaboratively with many campus partners to support a range of educational and prevention efforts.”

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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