As of Wednesday afternoon, however, students continued their sit-in at the Holland Union Building, saying they intend to keep pressure on the administration for further change.
The protests, which began Monday, center on Title IX – the federal law requiring measures against gender discrimination for schools that accept federal funding – and the specific case of student Rose McAvoy, who published an op-ed in the student newspaper last week about her own Title IX investigation that she believes Dickinson mishandled.
Ensign’s memo to the Dickinson community addressed each of the 17 demands listed by student protesters, including some concrete changes that would address the issues uncovered in McAvoy’s case.
These include mandatory expulsion for a student’s second incident of sexual assault, as well as for any incident of rape; written permission from both parties in a Title IX investigation before a no-contact order is lifted; hiring a professional Title IX investigator; suspension of the accused from position of power, such as resident advisers, during investigations; and student senate review power over any Title IX or related policy changes.
Other commitments made by Ensign include more detailed codification of measures such as annual campus surveys, regular updates to parties of their Title IX investigation status, the range of punishments for violating no-contact orders, and other measures.
“Our conversations will continue, but I wanted to let the community know where we are,” Ensign wrote.
McAvoy’s case, she said, stems from an incident in October 2017 in which the student got on top of her, forcibly kissed her and removed some of her clothing without her consent.
According to correspondence from Dickinson administrators, McAvoy was notified in July 2018 that the school’s review board believed there was enough evidence to back the report and reprimanded the male student with probation through the end of the year, which McAvoy considered a “slap on the wrist.”
In light of the length of McAvoy’s case – eight months after the school was aware of the alleged assault on McAvoy, and seven months after it began a Title IX investigation – students also asked for a hard time limit of 60 days for investigations.
Ensign, in her letter, described this as “problematic” due to breaks in the academic calendar and the availability of students, but said Dickinson was “committed” to the “vast majority” of cases being done in a 60-day time frame, and that the hiring of a professional investigator would help.
McAvoy also alleged that her attacker used an attorney as his Title IX adviser, asking for the university to provide legal counsel for those who did not have it in such cases.
Ensign wrote that this “would not be feasible for a myriad of reasons,” including conflict-of-interest rules for an attorney paid for by the college, and the ability of the school to vet legal advisers.
McAvoy also criticized the school for not allowing her full access to interview transcripts and other investigative material in her case.
Ensign wrote that Dickinson will review its policy to “strengthen and clarify” how records can be provided, with necessary redactions for personal information of witnesses or medical records.