The university implemented a new anonymous reporting system last semester for instances of sexual misconduct that students and faculty experience or witness, but it’s unclear how much the system has been used.
The online system officially launched in August 2017, and various university departments and officials are involved in the process of investigating reports of sexual misconduct on campus.
Nationally, women have come forward as part of the #MeToo movement to report sexual misconduct and harassment by superiors. The university would not disclose the number of submissions to the anonymous reporting system, nor how many reports of misconduct have been made to university officials.
The university began advertising the system last semester with literature posted on Main Campus, including informational posters in every bathroom stall in the Student Center. This is a part of a $25,000 grant from Gov. Tom Wolf’s “It’s On Us PA” campaign.
Sexual misconduct is a broad term for any action that is deemed sexually inappropriate or uncomfortable and has the effect of intimidating or threatening someone. It can include sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse.
HOW IT WORKS
When reporting misconduct, the online system asks for optional information, like your name, university title and phone number. It then has a section for the person who experienced or witnessed misconduct to give details about the incident, like where it took place and who was involved. The person reporting an incident can upload files like videos, photos and text messages.
The system allows people to report anonymously, but this limits “the university’s ability to respond effectively” because officials will not be able to follow up with the person filing the report, according to the reporting system’s web page.
Each time an incident of misconduct is reported, the university’s Title IX Coordinator Andrea Seiss receives an email notification. The report is then stored in a database that only she and her supervisor can access.
If the report is anonymous, Seiss reviews the report’s available information, and it is then assigned to a private or university investigator.
When the report includes more information, like the names of the people involved, Seiss will reach out to the survivor and offer them access to on-campus resources like Tuttleman Counseling Services. She then offers the victim a time to meet and discuss additional information if he or she is comfortable.
“With anonymous reporting, we’re giving people an option to come forward in a way they feel most comfortable,” Seiss said.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT BY AN EMPLOYEE
In situations of employee misconduct, the university takes into consideration every report issued and decides what action should be taken.
“We closely follow our policies,” Seiss said. “Every case is taken seriously, whether the definition [of sexual misconduct] fits into a policy violation or not, because we’re also worried about how people are feeling and what we can do to make them comfortable.”
Depending on the severity of the misconduct, the university’s actions vary. Officials could refer a survivor of misconduct to counseling services, Seiss said. Serious instances of misconduct and harassment could lead to the university firing or expelling the offender.
For Temple employees accused of sexual misconduct by their peers or students, the Department of Human Resources, the employee’s department supervisor and other university representatives consider terminating an employee in cases of alleged misconduct, wrote Sharon Boyle, associate vice president of human resources, in an email.
“Every situation is different,” Boyle told The Temple News. “We have to examine the facts, and nothing is off the table when you’re dealing with a situation.”
Employees, in addition to their mandatory training requirements, must complete an online training course on harassment and misconduct when they are hired, Boyle said.
Boyle said the human resources department does its best to accommodate the needs of anyone who reports an incident of misconduct, but there will always be cases when people are disappointed by efforts to address the situation.
“Sometimes the appropriate course of action is not what the individual wants,” Boyle said. “People have different ideas as to what the appropriate course of action should be as opposed to an objective point of view.”
Seiss said she hopes the new reporting system will make it easier for the Temple community to report instances of sexual misconduct.
“There are a lot of barriers to people reporting, whether it’d be discomfort or not knowing where to go to file a report,” Seiss said. “People are more comfortable having that conversation. I start seeing it more and more on campus, and the more we talk about it, the more comfortable people are coming forward.”