Smith Changes Title IX Policy, Introduces New Training

Anna Saunders '17JContributing Writer

Smith students received a campus-wide email near the end of last semester from Dean of the College Donna Lisker announcing the adoption of a new Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy and a mandatory online training program, Not Anymore.

The email contained information on the new policy, which was developed with faculty, staff and student input to meet the college’s legal obligations to prevent gender-based and sexual misconduct.

Lisker explained that the new policy was designed to provide “greater clarity on Smith College’s procedures regarding investigating, adjudicating and remedying [the] issue of sexual misconduct.”

The announcement intended to strengthen the college’s commitment to Title IX.

“We had sexual harassment policy that was in the employment manual. We had language that dealt with sexual assault that was in the student code,” said Dwight K. Hamilton, Smith’s chief diversity officer. “We’re making it clearer that incidents of sexual misconduct are prohibited regardless of whether or not you are a student, a staff person, a member of the faculty or someone else that avails themselves of our community.”

The email mandated that students complete the online video-based program with a passing score of 90 percent. Lisker explained that the purpose of the training is to educate students via the modules of “Consent, Bystander Intervention, Sexual Assault, Dating and Domestic Violence, Stalking and Healthy Relationships.”

Congruent with both Smith’s new policy and the issuance of new federal mandates, the announcement of “Not Anymore” drew immediate response from Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), who posted on the organization’s Facebook page “a warning to the general student body that this training has the potential to be extremely triggering.”

Title IX Officer Sarah Harebo recognizes the sensitive nature of the subject of the online training material.

“I reviewed several programs with that in mind and [chose] this one for a lot of positive reasons,” Harebo said. “It had the most extensive trigger warning that was available, and I thought that was really important.”

Students who felt triggered by the program were permitted to opt out if they signed a form acknowledging that they received a copy of and read the policy.

“I offered an option where, if the subject matter was too upsetting, any student that contacted me could opt out,” said Harebo, continuing to say that option was in the Lisker’s email though it was not explicitly stated. 

The announcement of the training requirement in an email format drew varied responses from students.

For Marisa Piñero ’19, the email was not well-timed with student’s schedules. “It’s an important thing, and they should’ve put more emphasis on what it was,” she said. “It was [sent] right before the break, when everyone is going to forget that it exists.”

Other students commented on the ambiguity of the announcement. “I really don’t know what it is,” said Olivia Tom ’19.  “I had no idea this was a thing; I might’ve even deleted the email.”

Despite structural critiques, Riley Boeth ’17 wasn’t opposed to the requirement. “There were stories that were hard to hear, and it didn’t do a good job of warning you … [but] I think it was a totally valid and worthwhile for the college to make mandatory,” she said.

“I really liked it and how it represented different kinds of abuse other than just sexual in a real but positive way, referencing human resiliency and survivorhood,” said Tegan Waring ’17. “I especially enjoyed at the end when they talked about steps to take if you want to prosecute and how abuse happens to everyone.”

“The main concern was that some people were bitter about how long it took … It’s likely that a lot of students who go into [the training] with a closed mind are the ones who need [the training] the most; in which case its being so long will only further put them off to it, and they might internalize less of what’s being expressed to them,” said a first-year who asked to remain anonymous.

The email was the most recent announcement from the administration related to the college’s efforts to address sexual violence on campus.

“There’s a lot of different things kind of floating around the office right now … There will be a redesigned website to make all of this a little bit more search-friendly and make sure that they’re a little bit more readable and engaging,” said Harebo.

Harebo has plans to continue prevention efforts. “I’m hoping to bring some speakers to campus that can talk about the more nuanced parts of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking that students should be aware of,” she said.