As front pages across the nation are ripe with accusations of sexual violence, the topic of sexual assault is still a hot topic on campuses across the country. In 2015, the Illinois state legislature passed the “Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act,” or 110 ILCS 205.
The law went into effect in August 2016 requiring that colleges and universities share information on their conduct process, sanctions and programming in relation to sexual assault. Over the summer, DePaul administrators began piecing together a 71-page report that offers university numbers on sexual and relationship violence, domestic or dating violence and stalking.
In 2016, DePaul received 72 reports of sexual violence. Of that number, only 2 students decided not to proceed or seek support from the university. 17 of those reports led to investigations, which are overseen by the Title IX Coordinator.
Those who helped put the report together included the Dean of Students, Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) and the Title IX Coordinator.
Because U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama-era Dear Colleague letter, some states are now missing a piece of legislation that has been referred to as a “significant guidance document.”
In the interest of transparency, the report has been made available online for the entire DePaul community to access, according to university spokesperson Carol Hughes.
The report comes out on an annual basis and follows the 2016 calendar year, not the academic year. It includes information on all reports made, programming and investigations that took place between Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Because the law was not enacted until late 2015, there are no numbers available from 2015 or earlier.
According to Section G of the report, once the Title IX office investigates a case, it will be presented to the Dean of Students office. Then, the case will be presented to a panel of three people for a board hearing.
Each person — one student, one faculty member and one staff member — is trained in responding to sexual and relationship violence. They review all the information in the case and both students are provided the opportunity to speak to that panel and share their perspective. Then, the panel decides on the sanction.
Sanctions can vary based on the severity of the offense, according to Ashley Knight, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for students and Dean of Students. Sanctions, however, do not include referrals to law enforcement.
In 2016, 8 of the 17 investigations concerning sexual violence, and stalking were referred to law enforcement. Additionally, 8 of those investigations went through the Student Conduct process. Two students were dismissed, three were suspended and one other received a miscellaneous sanction.
Hannah Retzkin said that she thinks about how HPW and the university can always improve how they are reaching out to students, and more importantly, which students.
“There’s certain sub-segments of the student population who really may not have any idea that the resources exist and we’re here to serve all students,” Retzkin said. “We wanna make sure that we gather all the information from the report.”
Retzkin is not alone in thinking about how to improve not only the report, but efforts around providing education.
“The shortcoming of the report is that it (only) requests a slice of our info. (…) It’s frustrating putting it together because it doesn’t show the scope of what the university does when we get a report,” Tamburro said.
Tamburro said that she wishes there was a section on the report that detailed sexual misconduct, such as when students share intimate photos with others without consent.
“It asks for certain information and when you’re looking at the data and reports we’re categorizing the reports according to what the state statute is requesting,” Tamburro said. “I don’t think it paints a full picture of everything that (the Title IX office) does.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included numbers that were inaccurately reported. 72 cases of sexual violence were reported to the university, not 44. We apologize for the inconvenience.