The University of Virginia has a new interim policy on sexual assault and harassment, and it includes everybody in the university community. The 18-page document spells out the university's expectations for all employees and students when it comes to reporting sexual assault, harassment or any form of interpersonal violence.
The policy, that is effective as of Tuesday, March 31, outlines different procedures for reports against students and university employees. UVA Student Council President Abraham Axler says this was a much needed step for students.
"Our policies for faculty staff and students had to be the same but that the processes could be different. I think that's where the importance of student input came,” he stated. ‘What are the processes for students to ensure that they feel comfortable coming forward, and when they come forward that the process is not re-traumatizing."
The policy clearly defines what sexual assault is and urges complainants to notify law enforcement immediately in the reporting process. It also states complaints will be examined by the university's full-time investigator or "an external investigator with relevant experience."
In the section on how things like affirmative consent and violation are handled, one sentence is in bold and highlighted. It says being impaired by alcohol or other drugs is no defense to any violation of this policy. A very clear message that zero tolerance is a focus of this change. Students and employees will be allowed to have an adviser at any disciplinary hearings.
The school says around 600 people responded to the original draft of the interim policy and that helped create the final version.
The school started to craft the document prior to the Rolling Stone article being published last fall. The overhaul of UVA's sexual misconduct policies were, in part, sparked by a federal Title IX investigation that began in 2012. Title IX is the federal law that deals with sexual violence and discrimination in education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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