Northwestern to update policy after proposed rule about sexual assault statistics

Olivia Exstrum, Assistant Summer Editor

Northwestern officials say they are prepared to comply with a new rule proposed by the White House under the Violence Against Women Act that would require colleges to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

The proposed rule falls under amendments to the Violence Against Women Act that went into effect in March. University officials said they have been working to comply with the amendments.

“Northwestern has been making good faith efforts to comply with the VAWA amendments since they were enacted,” said Joan Slavin, director of NU’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office and Title IX coordinator, in an email to The Daily. “We are currently working on making revisions to our complaint resolution procedures to make sure they comply with best practices under VAWA and Title IX.”

Slavin also said the University is investigating adding new prevention-related training for students, staff and faculty regarding sexual assault, stalking, and dating and domestic violence.

(In Focus: Northwestern community looks to change sexual assault procedures as Ludlow case moves forward)

Tara Sullivan, assistant dean of students and director of student conduct and conflict resolution, said in an email to The Daily that the University has been expecting a requirement for schools to report these statistics for “quite some time.”

“I share the hope that reporting this information will provide students with a better understanding of what is happening on campus and allow them to make choices that are best for them regarding their individual safety and security.”

Sullivan said before the proposed rule, the University had a “gold standard policy” regarding how it handles sexual misconduct, stalking, and dating and domestic violence. She said the current policy is being reviewed, but that she anticipates any changes to be minor.

“We are in the process of developing a new student conduct process,” Sullivan said. “The new process has already been written with much of this in mind, but we will certainly review it to ensure that everything is incorporated before it is launched in the fall.”

In addition, Slavin said updates to the University’s policy will be included in its upcoming annual security report, which will be available in the fall.

The proposed rule would require universities to not only compile these statistics but also make other policy changes as well.

Changes under the proposed rule include expanding the definition of hate crimes under the Clery Act to include gender identity and national origin as categories of bias; adopting a more inclusive definition of rape; requiring universities to guarantee their proceedings regarding these incidents are “prompt, fair, and impartial;” strengthening policies to protect victim confidentiality; and “specifying requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Slavin said she feels there has been heightened awareness about sexual violence and assault on all campuses, including NU. She said campus groups, such as the Title IX Coordinating Committee and the Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence have been key in bringing together other interested groups to discuss these issues and possible solutions.

“I have really appreciated the activism we have seen here on our campus,” Sullivan said. “I am encouraged by the community’s interest in ensuring that Northwestern is not only in compliance, but also doing what is best for our community.”

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