Content warning: This article contains discussions of sexual assault on campus.
During the Fall of 2022, Occidental College’s Civil Rights & Title IX office received a total of 44 reported incidents of various forms of discrimination and harassment. The Civil Rights and Title IX office released their summary of 2022 Fall reports Feb. 21 as part of their effort to promote transparency and accessibility of information. Reporting occurred on the basis of perceived violations of the 2022 Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy and/or the 2022 Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation policy. The policies prohibit certain actions as required by federal law, state law and the consensus of the community, according to Alexandra Fulcher, the Civil Rights & Title IX coordinator.
According to the report, between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022, 16 of 44 of the complaints were self-reported, one was from a third-party student, one was from a parent of a student and 26 reports were made by responsible employees. Almost all employees at Occidental, with the exception of confidential employees and most student workers aside from Resident Advisors, are responsible employees, meaning that they are mandated to report any violations of the policies. The only confidential employees are Project S.A.F.E. advocates, Reverend Dr. Susan Young, Emmons counseling services and the 24/7 helpline. According to Fulcher, whether or not there is further action based on reports is up to the student involved.
“While they don’t have control over whether a responsible employee makes a report to me, they do have control over whether they want to meet with me, if they want to pursue any kind of action or access resources,” Fulcher said.
About 10 reports made in the Fall were related to the campus peeping Tom incidents, which Fulcher said contributed to high numbers of sexual exploitation reports. Fulcher also said that the proportion of self-reports to reports from responsible employees has increased. However, the total number of reports have decreased from the 73 reports received in Fall 2021.
“Last academic year, we had an unusually high number of reports in the Fall semester. So I would say last year’s numbers are kind of an outlier,” Fulcher said. “This Fall’s numbers reflect us getting back to what we might see in an average year.”
Project S.A.F.E. Program Assistant Pooja Bansiya (junior) is a student currently on the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility and Misconduct, which meets monthly to talk about relevant topics on campus, including the Fall 2022 report.
“The Fall of 2021 was higher in terms of results. It includes a lot of what happened during COVID times in the pandemic, or even what happened before the pandemic,” Bansiya said. “It kind of encompasses two years’ worth of information, when people couldn’t report because of the pandemic.”
Once a report is made, the Civil Rights & Title IX Office, usually Fulcher, reaches out to provide support to whoever was subject to the violation and gives them information about Project S.A.F.E. Legal guardians are not contacted without a student’s consent, and parties who violated the policy are not automatically contacted by the Civil Rights & Title IX Office, according to Fulcher. If the College initiates a report, the complainant cannot remain anonymous, Fulcher said.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time if someone asks us not to investigate something, we can honor that request,” Fulcher said.
Last Fall, after being contacted by the Civil Rights & Title IX Office, two people did not respond at all, five requested no further action, 10 reports involved unknown parties, and only one was resolved in education/training.
“There were a number, about two or three cases, that started as investigations, but then either the accused person left the community, so we no longer have jurisdiction under them,” Fulcher said, “or sometimes we’ll get requests to start investigations and then the complainant changes their mind about wanting to pursue an investigation. If they notify me that they would like to close the investigation, we can do that too.”
According to Bansiya, the Peeping Tom incidents were a large reason so many reports did not make it to an investigation, as the perpetrator was not identified, making it hard to pursue further action. Project S.A.F.E. also offers different forms of support, Banisya said.
“Project S.A.F.E. is there to help victims decide the path they want to take,” Bansiya said.
Project S.A.F.E. Prevention Education Coordinator Joaquin Caro said the advocates can help students create a plan of action given the options available, even before filing a complaint.
“For every person it’s different, what they’ve experienced is different, so everyone may have different needs,” Caro said.
The report concludes with a summary of the incidents that occurred during the Fall 2022 semester itself, omitting reports prior to August. In total, 21 complaints claimed violations of the policies over the course of the semester.
“Safety comes from those in our community,” Caro said. “Those who live here and invest their time here.”
Emmons 24/7 Confidential Hotline: (323) 341-4141
Contact Mollie Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction March. 9th, 2023, 2:51 p.m.: This article was updated to to reflect that Bansiya is not the only student on the Campus Committee on Sexual Responsibility and Misconduct, the office’s official name is “the Civil Rights & Title IX Office,” Project S.A.F.E. is not informed of the reports the office receives and do not simultaneously reach out to the impacted person and legal guardians are not notified without the consent of the complainant. The College does not reach out to an accused student automatically. Finally, the complainant cannot remain anonymous if the College initiates a report.