EMU president appoints ‘Action Plan’ Steering Committee

President Susan Schultz Huxman launched an Action Plan Steering Committee Jan. 26 at Eastern Mennonite University to continue to ensure that the university is meeting federal regulations and implementing best practices to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.

The appointment of the steering committee is the first of four actions implemented by Huxman in response to the Board of Trustee mandates after receiving the D. Stafford and Associates report.

In addition to the work of the steering committee, Huxman announced three other actions to address best practices in the education and prevention of sexual misconduct on campus: development of a full-scale Title IX training program for faculty, staff and students; the implementation of a campus climate survey; and a review of the effectiveness of EMU’s Title IX coordinator position, as recommended by DSA.

The DSA report found that EMU has “extensive and detailed policies” addressing sexual discrimination, but these policies are found in disparate places; their recommendation was to create one comprehensive institutional policy.

“We are eager to move forward,” Huxman said. “I was pleased by the focus and commitment at our first meeting. This group of full-time EMU employees collectively has the requisite special expertise in all facets of education around sexual violence and discrimination. I have full confidence that this committee will prepare a report that takes us beyond compliance, one that helps us to live into our mission and our Anabaptist values of peace and reconciliation.”

Board chair Kay Nussbaum expressed appreciation for the ongoing work of Huxman and the administration, as well as for the new steering committee.

“This work is vital in strengthening EMU’s capacity to prevent sexual violence, effectively respond to allegations, and create a safe environment for our campus community,” she said. “We are grateful to move forward on this agenda with intentional action and focused leadership.”

Committee begins work on new Title IX policy

Huxman has named six members to the steering committee. By June 2017, this committee will have proposed a comprehensive new model for EMU’s Title IX policy.

To create this model, the committee is charged with reviewing DSA’s Title IX policy recommendations, as well as those recommendations for best practices addressing sexual violence collected by a fall 2016 task force.

Pam Comer, director of counseling services, chaired a key EMU task force that met in the fall and is also a member of the steering committee.

Irene Kniss, the new Title IX coordinator, will chair the steering committee. Other members include Marcy Engle, director of human resources and former Title IX coordinator; Celeste Thomas, co-director of Multicultural Student Services; Jonathan Swartz, director of residence life, student accountability and restorative justice; and Cathy Rittenhouse, nursing professor and current chair of the committee that hears and adjudicates Title IX hearings.

Development of Title IX training

Another action requires the design of a full-scale Title IX training program for the board, faculty, staff and students. Kniss will design the program and present it to the board, with cost estimates, a timetable and a plan of implementation for the next academic year (2017-18).

“The safety of EMU’s community has been one of my primary concerns as director of health services and continues in this new capacity as Title IX coordinator,” said Kniss, from Orlando, Florida, where she is attending a four-day Title IX training certification conference. “The role integrates my experiences of more than 30 years in the medical field as well as 14 years in a law firm as a legal nurse consultant.”

Campus climate survey

A campus climate survey will be developed by the director of institutional research and effectiveness, Scott Barge, and presented to the board for approval at its June 2017 meeting.

The periodic survey will poll students, faculty and staff regarding their knowledge of racial and sexual discrimination or harassment, sexual assault/violence or any experiences with sexual/racial discrimination while attending or working at EMU. The survey will also assess awareness of EMU’s Title IX policies and procedures.

Review of Title IX coordinator

The action plan also includes review of the new Title IX coordinator position, completed by the president in consultation with the vice president of finance and human resources.

A summary of recent campus events related to healthy sexuality and institutional harms and healing

Here are some of the activities that have taken place on campus in the past six months related to the topic of raising awareness and educating students about sexual misconduct issues:

  • In fall 2016 EMU sponsored a Best Practices on Addressing Sexual Violence Task Force.
  • EMU hired a dedicated Title IX coordinator.
  • Four staff persons have received formal training in carrying out Title IX sexual assault investigations.
  • The Student Life Division integrated bystander training into orientation and first-year activities.
  • Students in the teaching, ministry and healthy sexuality class and the introduction to youth ministry class participated in a half-day sexual abuse prevention training provided by The Collins Center. [This is the fourth year the training has been offered.]
  • ‘Conversations on Sexual Violence’ symposium, March 2016, aimed to nurture community-building and resilience, 2016: News release.
  • A series of chapel addresses including: Sex and Millenials: #NewScripts, by Carolyn Stauffer, Oct. 5, 2016 (Podcast); Faithful Sexuality in an Age of  Porn, by Ken L. Nafziger, vice president for student life and dean of students, Oct. 28, 2016 (Podcast); Service of Lament for Sexual Abuse, with Professor Jerry Holsopple, Nov. 9, 2016 (Podcast); Stumbling In The Darkness (Take Back The Night Seminary Chapel) by Charlie Tinsley, Nov. 15, 2016. (Podcast).
  • Symposium and lecture by Catholic victims’ advocate Tom Doyle which focused on institutional harms and healing, Nov. 15, 2016: News release.
  • Student-planned Take Back the Night events which focused campus attention on sexual violence and victims, Nov. 22, 2016: News release.

Scheduled for Summer Peacebuilding Institute, 2017

Spotlight on Sexual Harms: Institutional Best Practices
Professor Carolyn Stauffer

Course description: Incidents of sexual wrongdoing damage institutions in addition to injuring individuals. When relationships are ruptured by sexual misconduct, institutions have a responsibility to repair the harms done, address breaches of conduct, and work towards prevention. This course investigates the forms that sexual harms can take and provides participants with the knowledge, skills and tools to build more preventative and restorative organizational environments. View more information.

Discussion on “EMU president appoints ‘Action Plan’ Steering Committee

  1. Thank you, President Schultz Huxman for your leadership in this matter. For those interested in enrolling in the course in Summer Peacebuilding Institute here are a few more details.

    1. It is a 5-day course and may be taken for training only or for academic credit. If participants need CEUs, we can work with them on that.
    2. Professor Carolyn Stauffer is teaching it. She is highly qualified through her extensive study of violence in intimate domains and through her practice,
    3. Professor Stauffer is designing the course to help leaders and concerned members of organizations and institutions manage all of the facets of an incident or accusation of sexual misconduct — from coping with the traumatic effects to creating and sustaining effective response system.
    4. We are defining leaders to include both formal and informal leaders in an organization.
    5. Any organization that sends more than one participant is eligible for a tuition discount. Please indicate on your applications if you are applying as a group.

    Follow the link above for more information and the application.

    1. Reassuring and hopeful work, EMU, and offers a city-on-the-hill-Light-of-the-World
      antidote to the sadness & disappointment of the past 12 months, both in our academic/faith community and in the larger USA political arena.

      I applaud the appointment of the new Title IX coordinator & Steering committee chair, Irene Kniss. She brings strong and appropriate qualifications & life experience to this work.

      Thank you for informing the EMU community & alums in this specific, easy-access manner. Jeff Shank, you are a treasured liaison to the EMU Alumni community…EMU Homecoming 2016 was a memorable experience.

  2. How will the new task force invite theological reflection on what Anabaptist values bring to the efforts to make EMU a safe place for everyone? Will religious leaders be involved in discussing the questions of how we best listen to and acknowledge the harms that have been committed on campus? How will the task force listen to the experiences of victims of sexual violence at EMU? Will the men and women whose lives have been affected by sexual violence at EMU be asked to contribute their feedback on what has been helpful and harmful? How will the task force be inviting the expertise and experience of the EMU faculty who have been teaching courses on sexual violence?

    1. Thank you for these thoughtful questions, which will be noted to the steering committee chair Irene Kniss, EMU’s Title IX coordinator. We will provide more coverage as the steering committee begins their work.

      Clarity on language is important. This article highlights the formation of a steering committee, rather than a task force. The fall 2016 task force, of which you were a member, developed recommendations for best practices addressing sexual violence. As the article notes, those recommendations will inform the work of the steering committee.

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