University, Student Government respond to new Title IX complaint
Administration says confidentiality agreement does not prevent victims from discussing their allegations with others
Vice President for Campus Life Gail Hanson and Student Government President Sasha Gilthorpe released separate responses to media reports about the most recent Title IX complaint against the University.
Faith Ferber, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, filed the complaint March 7 after signing a confidentiality agreement that was required by the University before she could continue the disciplinary process against her perpetrator. Ferber claims that this confidentiality agreement violates Title IX, the Eagle reported.
Ferber’s story has received coverage not only from the Eagle, but also from other news sites including Buzzfeed, WJLA, CNN and the Huffington Post.
“This is the second time in two years American University has been thrust into the national media for the way we handle sexual assault on our campus,” Gilthorpe wrote in her response.
Hanson’s memorandum came in direct response to this widespread media coverage.
In the memorandum, Hanson wrote “AU’s Student Conduct process does have an Honesty and Confidentiality Policy. All hearing participants (students, hearing officers, witnesses, and administrators) sign a form acknowledging their agreement to provide truthful information and to preserve the confidentiality of the hearing process”.
According to President Gilthorpe, the Honesty and Confidentiality policy is necessary, but AU’s policy is flawed.
“The policy itself, not the way it’s currently written, but a policy like it has to exist on this campus. It is a part of (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act),” Gilthorpe said.
The policy applies to all persons involved in disciplinary proceedings and is intended to safeguard the fairness of the University’s disciplinary policy according to hanson.
“The policy does not prevent victims of sexual assault from discussing their allegations with others, including the final outcomes of the related disciplinary proceeding,” Hanson said in the letter.
Ferber disputed this statement in an op-ed published March 17 in The Eagle.
“I posted a status on Facebook about my disappointment with the outcome [of the disciplinary proceedings],” Ferber said in her op-ed. “My hearing advisor, another AU student, shared the status.That week, we were both called into the Student Conduct office and told we had violated the confidentiality agreement and needed to change the status or take it down.”
Hanson promised in the memorandum that the University will reevaluate the Honesty and Confidentiality Policy in order to “ensure clarity.” Gilthorpe was not entirely satisfied with Hanson’s response.
“I was not surprised by what they said, but I wish it had been phrased a little differently,” Gilthorpe said.“It’s hard for anyone on this campus to read that and think ‘oh, they care about me’.”
In SG’s press release, Gilthorpe promised to examine the Honesty and Confidentiality document and propose alterations “so students are able to feel truly free to own their story.”
According to Gilthorpe, the Sexual Assault Working Group is currently reviewing the Honesty and Confidentiality policy, and considering possible revisions.
Gilthorpe also promised to review current Title IX training undergone by Student Conduct Officers and propose further training on trauma for all staff involved in the disciplinary process.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has yet to open an investigation on Faith’s case, according to Hanson’s memorandum. In the memorandum Hanson promised the University will cooperate fully if it receives a complaint from the OCR.