Changes proposed to sexual assault reporting process

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Cheryl Wayne was hired as DePaul’s first Title IX investigator this year. She will take on the investigation of complaints. (Matthew Paras / The DePaulia)

Cheryl Wayne was hired as DePaul’s first Title IX investigator this year. She will take on the investigation of complaints. (Matthew Paras / The DePaulia)

Karen Tamburro had 90 days.

When Tamburro took over in September as DePaul’s Title IX coordinator, the person responsible taking on complaints of sexual assault, violence and making sure DePaul follows the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination on campus, she had 90 days to evaluate the university’s policies and procedures when it came to the sexual assault reporting process and other cases of gender discrimination.

Now with that time frame passed, Tamburro has proposed a series of changes — one of which evolved hiring a Title IX investigator, a position that DePaul has never had.

In December, Tamburro hired Cheryl Wayne to take over the investigation process in cases. When Tamburro was hired in September, she knew one of her tasks would be to hire an investigator.

“There’s a lot of care and consideration on how the university is responding to this issue, specifically of sexual assault,” Tamburro said.

Heading that role is Wayne, a retired Lieutenant Col. in the U.S. Air Force. A Chicago native, Wayne joined DePaul after serving most recently as the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity in Diversity Affairs at Kennesaw State Unviersity in Atlanta.

She started at DePaul in January.

“When you have an investigator, they can focus on that case,” Wayne said. “When you’re doing that and coordinating, you’ve got two pieces of a very important topic, and it needs its own person. I can concentrate strictly on the investigation.”

Wayne said she focuses on interviewing those involved, and her primary role is to gather the facts. After doing so, Wayne will make a recommendation to the Dean of Students if the case deals with student-to-student issues, such as a sexual assault. The dean will then decide if there should be a conduct hearing process. For student-to-faculty issues, the recommendation goes to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.

With Wayne focusing on the investigation, it’s allowed Tamburro to allocate resources to focus on the reporting process.

Among the changes that are being eyed include a re-write of the policy for reporting incidents, a separate website to easier find information, a data management system, install more training for students and faculty and launching a climate survey to measure the pulse of students.

“With regards to the policy, I really wanted to tweak the focus so it doesn’t read so much as an employee receiving the report is obligated to report,” Tamburro said. “I wanted to make it clear for an individual looking at the policy, when they maybe in a time of trauma or the aftermath of a sexual assault, ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’

“It needs to be clearly outlined, bulleted to make sure that’s clear.”

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Tamburro said when she read the policy that it’s framed to outline what employees should do with a survivor or an individual making the report. She said she wants the individual to know what he or she is entitled to in terms of their options.

The policy, Tamburro said, will also reflect the recommendations consistent with the Illinois Prevention of Sexual Assault in Higher Ed Act, a law that mandates universities have a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence policy.

Tamburro also said that finding the policy needs to be more easily accessible. Currently, students can find the information through Public Safety’s website. However, Tamburro said she has been working with people from information services to develop an own separate website.

“It became apparent, that what matters most is how the content is laid out,” Tamburro said. “I worked with the office of Health and Wellness and they received some student feedback on what it should look like. I used their feedback and I’m making sure the content is user friendly, readily accessible, all those sorts of things.

“Having the information housed on Public Safety could potentially be a barrier,” she said. “A student who is a survivor may associate Public Safety with law enforcement and there’s a hesitancy sometimes to go that route. I wanted it to be separate.”

Tamburro’s goal is to launch the website by August.

Another area DePaul needed to renovate was their data management system, DePaul Vice President for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity Elizabeth Ortiz said.

“Currently, it’s a paper and pencil system, and we put it into Excel,” Ortiz said. “They’re looking at maxing it.”

Ortiz said that DePaul will be temporarily switching over to BlueStar, a management system that can track when reports are filed so Tamburro can keep track of reports in a more efficient way. Ortiz, though, said this will be a temporary fix before looking to buy a full data management system.

Ortiz, however, said a lot of these proposed changes need approval by other places in the universities. The policy changes, for instance, requires a longer process in which Ortiz and Tamburro will run their suggested changes to the Policy Review Group and later the Shared Governance process.

“It’s not an easy process, and it’s not a cut and dry process,” Ortiz said. “There’s always negotiation and a back-and-forth.”

The goal for the policy review changes are to be done by April, with the intent of them being finalized by August.

“It really is my intent to eliminate barriers for students that are facing discrimination or harassment, specifically sexual assault,” Tamburro said. “I think that having students know there’s a resource readily available to them … is of paramount importance.”