In July 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed Grinnell College that it was opening an investigation into a Title IX complaint filed against the College. The complaint, which was not shared with the College by OCR, addresses the College’s response to cases of reported sexual assault and retaliation. OCR also informed the College that “opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merits.” College administrators said they welcome this review and will collaborate with OCR to assure that the College’s Title IX policies and procedures are as effective as possible.
Last spring, President Raynard S. Kington requested that OCR provide the College with technical assistance under Title IX after being unable to comment on media coverage of student allegations dating back to 2012. Kington noted that the College had made significant improvements in policies and process following new guidance from OCR in April 2011 and sought review by OCR as a neutral and impartial fact-finder.
“Our work should not be judged in the court of public opinion based on incomplete information, but by those responsible for oversight of Title IX, based on comprehensive information about our practices on campus,” Kington said in a letter to the campus community in March 2015.
After making the request for assistance, the College learned from media that a number of Grinnell students had filed a Title IX complaint with OCR. A local attorney working with the complainants acknowledged that neither the filing of the complaint, nor the complaint itself had been shared with the College. OCR publicly “commend[ed] Grinnell College for its commitment to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn in an environment free from sexual violence,” but later declined to provide technical assistance in light of the pending complaint.
The College continues to proactively develop its sexual respect policies to ensure that its practices are trauma-informed, prompt and equitable, and fair. Recent enhancements include engaging an outside adjudicator, former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, as well as outside investigators on an as-needed basis. In addition, the College has developed a Title IX training program that has become a national model. Throughout all of its efforts, Grinnell students have been deeply involved in prevention and response work.
The College maintains a Title IX Task Force that directs its resources toward preventing sexual misconduct and responding to student reports. Each member of the task force has a focused area of responsibility:
• Angela Voos (chief of staff and Title IX coordinator), oversight of all Title IX matters.
• Sarah Moschenross (dean of students), conduct process.
• Jen Jacobsen ’95 (wellness director), prevention.
• Jeff Pedersen ’02 (head football coach), athletics.
• Deanna Shorb (dean of religious life), confidential response and support.
• Bailey Thompson (strategic planning assistant), case management.
In a July 27, 2015, message to the campus community announcing the OCR investigation, Voos said, “We are committed to ensuring that we are doing everything possible to prevent and respond appropriately to incidents of sexual violence and will continue to seek improvements that tend to the needs of our community. We support the rights of our students to file a civil rights complaint, and we will continue to provide support and care for all of our community members.”
Grinnell’s sexual respect policy resources can be found at www.grinnell.edu/sexualrespect.