Code of Conduct reevaluates sexual assault

In response to a letter sent by the Office for Civil Rights to colleges nationwide last spring, the Geneseo Student Code of Conduct is undergoing changes regarding sexual assault cases.

The letter, known as the "Dear Colleague" letter, outlined the ways in which colleges and universities should consider revising codes of conduct in relation to sexual assault cases.  

Among the new changes, the code of conduct now allows complainants to hire attorneys during their case proceedings and the delivery of letters to complainants notifying them of their cases' outcomes, both of which were previously reserved for the accused only.

Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said that the new revisions to the code "[try to] make sure that the whole process is fair and equal to both sides. That's what a lot of these [changes] are."

Sancilio said that Geneseo did not need to make many changes to the code of conduct, as much of what was suggested in the letter was already incorporated in the code. The newest changes were incorporated earlier this month.

"We addressed college council to try and get those new pieces approved, and we were able to get everything but one piece approved," he said. "We're still working on the last piece."

The rejected proposal deals with the ways in which students can appeal decisions in sexual assault cases. While the current code only allows the accused party to appeal case decisions, the new proposal would allow complainants to appeal case decisions as well.

"It's just trying to come up with a way to say the accused can appeal, the complainant can appeal or both can appeal, and then what happens if they both appeal," Sancilio said.

Although wording this portion of the code has been difficult, Sancilio said he has submitted a revised draft to the State University of New York's legal counsel, most of which has been approved. He said that it is possible that this change could be incorporated into the code within the next week.

Other members of the campus community are working to draft new sexual assault policies that, once approved by the college council, would fall under the student code of conduct. Gloria Lopez, director of affirmative action, and Melinda DuBois, administrator director of Student Health and Counseling, are two faculty members working to address the issue.

As director of affirmative action, Lopez is responsible for the college's overall compliance with Title IX, a 1972 law that ensures gender equity. According to a campus-wide email from President Christopher Dahl in early September, Lopez's responsibilities include drafting revisions to the college's grievance policies to include sexual assault.

DuBois is acting as the college's deputy Title IX coordinator for student sexual assault, which requires her to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support victims of sexual assault.

"They have the ability to come and talk to me about the circumstance and try to figure out what they want to do," she said. "There's a lot of options available for students. It's kind of a way to educate the students and be advocates for them … and help them go through with the process if they decide to pursue certain options."

In addition, Lopez and DuBois are a part of the advisory committee on campus safety, a committee that meets to discuss and draft campus policies in regards to sexual assault.

Lopez and DuBois encouraged students to visit the college's Sexual Assault – Focus on Education, or S.A.F.E. Web page through Geneseo's Health and Counseling Web page, and also to contact either of them with sexual assault policy questions or suggestions.