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Duquesne sexual misconduct policy updated

Confidentiality can no longer be promised to victims

By Max Pensiero
On April 19, 2012

Duquesne's updated policy and reporting procedures for cases of gender discrimination and sexual misconduct, published in March, no longer promise the victim's confidentiality, in accordance with new Department of Education requirements under Title IX.

According to Cheryl Knoch, assistant vice president for Student Life and Duquesne's Title IX coordinator, the University updated its policies in April 2011. But they did not publish the policy until last month.

The updated Section VII of The Administrative Policy states that confidentiality cannot be promised because of "the serious nature of allegations of sexual misconduct," but will be "protected to the greatest extent possible in keeping with the obligation to conduct a thorough investigation" when requested.

A case against a multiple-time sexual offender presents one instance in which the confidentiality of the victim may not be possible, Knoch said.

"However, we will do the best we can to keep it. But we have to do what's best for the University as a whole," she said.

The updated policy urges students who are victims of sexual misconduct or who have witnessed sexual misconduct to inform Duquesne Public Safety, Duquesne Residence Life and the Pittsburgh Police.

Knoch said these updates were based on the federal government's "dear colleague" letter that went out to all institutions last April.

This letter states that the requirements of Title IX pertaining to sexual harassment also covers sexual violence and lays out the specific Title IX requirements applicable to sexual violence.

"It is a kind of reinforcement, a letter to all universities acting as a guideline to make sure they're adherent and compliant to Title IX," Knoch said.

The new timetable oulined by Title IX requires Duquesne to complete an investigation, hearing and sentencing within 60 days after the incident is reported.

While updates to Title IX saw Duquesne form its coordinating committee, Pa. House Bill 101, amended Sept. 28, 2010, made it necessary for the University to provide sexual misconduct surveys/tests to its students, faculty and staff.

Duquesne has always had some form of sexual violence awareness program, but it recently made awareness tests and surveys available online in an attempt to reach more students. These tests and surveys were not technically mandatory, but students needed to complete a test on Blackbaord last semester in order to register for classes this semester.

"We had to include a lot of specific things and tweak other things in order to be compliant with their wishes," Knoch said.

Duquesne's updated policy states that the University looks to "provide an educational, employment, and business environment free of all forms of sex discrimination as defined in this policy and as otherwise prohibited by state and federal statutes."

Moving forward, Knoch and Duquesne's summer orientation staff will be planning new programs for freshman orientation week.

Duquesne established a Title IX Coordinating Committee to comply with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights's April 4 mandate. The Office for Civil Rights aims to prevent and address sexual violence.

The committee consists of Duquesne officials appointed by President Charles J. Dougherty and is responsible for ensuring reported sexual harassment involving students, faculty or staff are investigated, ensuring the consistency of Duquesne's sexual harassment policies and procedures, ensuring the University complies with all federal and state sexual harassment laws and initiating "student-targeted educational programs related to the prevention of sexual harassment."



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