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Roanoke College Board announces changes following Title IX investigation review

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 3:38 PM EST
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke College Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has announced adjustments in an effort to better handle reports of sexual misconduct after a petition expressing concerns launched an independent investigation in August.

The third-party investigator, Karen Michael, Esq., had no other relationship with the school, and “began a process of inviting and conducting interviews, reviewing College processes and policies and considering all matters outlined in the petition. Ms. Michael invited anyone with relevant information to participate and she interviewed students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni.”

The school board and president acknowledged and apologized for the delay in the findings due to the “voluminous nature of the investigation" and further expressed their gratitude to the survivors who shared their stories and stepped forward to make positive changes at Roanoke College.

“We learned that while Roanoke College’s Title IX written policy itself meets legal standards, aspects of its implementation did not meet the College’s expectations or standards for treatment of our students. Roanoke College strives to respect and support our community, especially in times of crisis. It is clear from the investigation results that greater emotional and practical support should have been offered to some victims. We acknowledge and deeply regret the pain of victims and others who were not provided the level of empathy and support they deserved. We acknowledge that a process that adds to the pain victims, and others around them, experience is far from the nurturing environment that Roanoke College aspires to be. For our shortcomings, we are sorry.”

The following actions being made by the school are based on a review of the investigator’s report and final recommendations from the Board:

"-Leadership of the Dean of Students office has changed. Brian Chisom, Dean of Students, has resigned from Roanoke College. Tom Rambo, Associate Dean and Director of Campus Safety has been named interim Dean of Students. Tom Rambo will remain in this role until a Dean of Students is named.

-Leadership of the baseball program has changed. Cam Cassady, Interim Head Baseball Coach is no longer with Roanoke College. A new head baseball coach will be named.

-Aaron Fetrow will remain as interim Title IX coordinator, until a Title IX coordinator is named. The Title IX coordinator will work with Amy Perkins, Assistant Dean of Students and train staff and faculty on an ongoing basis.

-Roanoke College will hire a dedicated victim advocate, someone who focuses on all matters of victim advocacy and discrimination at the College. Our goal is to have the position filled next year, 2021.

-Roanoke College will use a third party to conduct regular campus climate surveys every three years, beginning in spring 2021. We will include benchmarks for improvement year after year.

-A strong relationship with the local SARA (Sexual Assault Response and Awareness) organization was recommended. Roanoke College has a long-standing relationship with SARA, but the investigation found that this valuable resource was not being utilized to the extent possible. We will further promote the resources available through SARA (education, counseling and other support.)

Additionally, Roanoke College will:

-Create easy, supportive and accessible ways for students, faculty and staff to report harassment, assault and similar issues, regardless of the outcome of any investigation involving responsibility (as required by Title IX.)

-Work to allow complainants the option of either a male or female to take the initial reports.

-Provide greater visibility for the training offered and held for students, faculty and staff in order to help them understand Title IX and related issues.

-Ensure that all investigators, advocates, and adjudicators are fully trained and qualified.

-Regularly review our Title IX processes. We will not assume because something is legally compliant that it is working for our students.

-Hold open meetings for faculty, staff and students regarding Roanoke College’s Title IX processes and procedures. We will work to determine ways in which Roanoke College students, faculty and staff can ask anonymous questions regarding the matters that Title IX covers. An all-campus information session will be held early in the Spring 2021 semester.

-Form an alumni advisory group of professionals in fields related to Title IX issues (attorneys, social workers, counselors, Title IX advocates, etc.) for the College to use as a consultative sounding board.

-Distribute a formal Title IX report from the College to the broader Roanoke College community every three years.

Cases of sexual misconduct should be reported to one of the Title IX Coordinators who will coordinate the College’s investigation of all allegations.

For all survivors, and anyone who needs support regarding sexual misconduct or assault please reach out to the individuals listed below. Resources are available for questions, counsel and support.

  • Aaron Fetrow, Interim Title IX Coordinator (oversees the College’s Title IX compliance) (540) 375-2230; fetrow@roanoke.edu; 111 Douglas W. Ayres Hall
  • Kathy Martin, Director of Human Resources & Deputy Title IX Coordinator (coordinates the College’s response to cases that involve a staff member as the respondent/accused party) (540) 375-2262; kmartin@roanoke.edu; 210 College Hall
  • Amy Perkins, Assistant Dean of Students & Deputy Title IX Coordinator (coordinates the College’s response to all cases that involve a student as the complainant or respondent/accused party) (540) 375-2592; perkins@roanoke.edu; 110 Alumni Gymnasium
  • Dr. Gail Steehler, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Deputy Title IX Coordinator (coordinates the College’s response to cases that involve a faculty member as the respondent/accused party) (540) 375-2436; gsteehle@roanoke.edu; 114 Administration Building
  • Anonymous reports of alleged sexual misconduct may limit the College’s ability to effectively investigate or respond, but can be submitted using Campus Safety’s Silent Witness online form: https://forms.roanoke.edu/silent_witness
  • The Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy is available on the College’s website: Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy
  • Further information about Title IX and sexual discrimination in education is available from the Office of Civil Rights OCR@ed.gov or www.ed.gov/ocr."

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