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February 21, 2024

SARU advocates for transparency between OIE and student body

By JEANIE FUNG | November 24, 2021



Students do not need to divulge personal details when seeking help about incidents of sexual violence with the Office of Institutional Equity.

The Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) at Hopkins held its annual Q&A event with the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) on Thursday. The event came shortly after the Not My Campus protest, which called for change in the University’s handling of instances of sexual violence on campus. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Co-Director of SARU Eleanor Franklin explained that the goal of the event was to encourage direct conversations between the student body and OIE administrators. They hope survivors will be equipped with the appropriate knowledge about the reporting process.

“Given the recent outrage about sexual violence on campus, we hope that this can be an opportunity for people to engage in survivor advocacy beyond surface level, short-lived support,” they wrote.

During the event, Assistant Vice Provost and Title IX Coordinator Linda Boyd, representing OIE, acknowledged that the process of reporting an incident is complicated, specifically noting that the Title IX sexual assault classification is often subject to tough standards. 

However, Boyd explained that OIE has its own standards in classifying sexual assault cases within the University.

“The way the Department of Education under the Trump administration has defined Title IX now only encompasses a subset of sexual misconduct,” she said. “Some sexual misconduct fall under Title IX and are subject to those regulations, and some sexual misconduct does not fall under Title IX but are still abided by our policies and are addressed by our procedures.” 

Sophomore Sai Dharmasena, one of the organizers of the Not My Campus protest, claimed that it is hard to find information about what resources OIE offers in an interview with The News-Letter. 

“[OIE] really doesn’t advertise a lot of what they offer; even after you experience sexual violence and go to them, they still don’t tell you everything they can do,” she said. “We just don’t know what we can do or what we can get out of an investigation. It’s not as accessible as it should be.”

Boyd emphasized at the event that survivors who may not feel fully comfortable reporting can come to OIE sharing as little or much as they want. Students can learn about how OIE would respond to potential cases without needing to share any specific details.

Audience members inquired about how OIE responds to incidents of misconduct where survivors are not comfortable formally reporting individual incidents.

Boyd explained that although OIE cannot take any action or force an individual to formally report an incident, it does keep a confidential database of data to determine any trends that will hopefully be helpful for future reports.

“If [a student] gives us a name of a correspondence, but they don’t give us any other information, it’s still going to show up in our database when we get another complaint about that same person,” she said. “Once we know someone is a problem for multiple people, it becomes much harder to say we’re not going to do anything about it even if that’s what the people want.”

The News-Letter asked Boyd to clarify if the office ever takes further action if an individual is named by multiple people who do not wish to file formal reports. Boyd did not respond by press time. 

Audience members also asked about ways to streamline the reporting process.

Boyd noted that not much further can be done since much of the process is required by law, but highlighted that OIE administrators have created resources to make the process more accessible.

“One of the things we try to do is always have a meeting with someone about the process and always talk to them and say, ‘Come back and ask us questions — you’re not expected to absorb all this information,‘” she said. “Another thing is that we provide someone going through the investigative process with a navigator, someone who is familiar with the process and is another person they can talk to get information about the process.”

Dharmasena pointed out that though the navigator is often a useful resource, OIE does not actively advertise it, which means that most survivors are not aware of the resource until they contact OIE to report a case. Dharmasena added that a lack of information about how the OIE handles cases involving minors could dissuade a minor from seeking out navigators and other OIE resources.

Boyd also spoke about fears of retaliation from the perpetrator. She explained that the office can work with survivors to predict retaliations and try to prevent them before they happen.

Freshman SARU member Hilary Gallito found the Q&A event to be informative and was able to learn about the process of reporting for the first time.

“More students should learn about the processes that they might encounter should they report an assault or just about what the OIE and its functions are in general,” she said.

She feels that the event may be particularly helpful to individuals who want to take action after the alleged intentional drugging at Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Franklin pointed out the difficulty in organizing talks about sexual violence.

“It's a sensitive subject, and often the only people doing this work are survivors themselves,” they wrote. “It is challenging to get other people to care.”

Nevertheless, Franklin hopes that the student body will remember that sexual assault is a prolific, and often silent, problem on campus.

Ishan Kalburge contributed reporting to this article. 

For crisis support and resource connections, call SARU’s confidential 24/7 peer-run hotline at (410) 516-7887.

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