What was the reason for this report?
In the fall of 2022, Hesston College students raised significant concerns about how reports of sexual assault and sexual misconduct were being managed through the College’s Title IX process. The College engaged Cozen O’Connor, an unbiased, trauma-informed, external organization with a national reputation for expertise in this area, to conduct a complete and thorough review of the College’s policies, procedures and practices related to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence under Title IX and related provisions of the Clery Act.
What sources of information were consulted during this report?
The findings detailed in the report resulted from Cozen O’Connor’s extensive research into Hesston College’s Title IX policies, procedures, and practices, most notably through their conversations since last fall with students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and other stakeholders; and their review of extensive related documentation, including all 35 Title IX reports filed over the past five years.
What were Cozen O’Connor’s main findings?
Cozen O’Connor’s main findings, as detailed in their report, are:
- Hesston College “generally satisfied the minimum requirements of Title IX” and “engaged in intentional prevention, education, training, and awareness programming and otherwise taken steps to more fully develop its Title IX Program.”
- In practice, “the College has not effectively implemented its Title IX obligations and that the College’s response to reports of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment was inconsistent with the federal legal framework in many instances.” Further, the report states that the college’s Title IX program:
- failed to consistently respond to and assess reports of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence;
- failed to provide complainants with consistent care, access to supportive measures, and information about procedural rights in response to individuals who made reports;
- improperly used informal resolution to resolve concerns about sexual and gender-based harassment; and
- generally reflected significant gaps in subject matter expertise that directly and negatively impacted and harmed student complainants.
How has the College responded to students’ November 2022 list of demands?
As of April 14, 2023:
- The college will hire a full-time counselor for the 2023-24 academic year to replace the current half-time counselor role.
- The college named a female faculty member as a non-mandatory reporter in the fall.
- The college removed Daniel Bender’s portrait and will replace it with a plaque explaining why it did so.
- The college hired an additional resident director and is in the process of recruiting a new resident director to fill a position that will become vacant at the end of this academic year. There will be two resident directors and two assistant resident directors in place this fall.
- The college will remove the Vice President of Student Life from the Title IX Policy as an alternate person who can receive Title IX reports.
- In compliance with current state laws and denominational guidelines,* campus pastors, when acting in the role of spiritual or pastoral counselor, are confidential resources to the Hesston College community, and are not required to forward reports to the college’s Title IX coordinator. Like all other faculty and staff, they are mandated to report any cases of suspected child abuse or imminent harm to the Kansas Protection Report Center. (Updated April 26, 2023, for clarity.)
*A shared understanding of ministerial leadership: Polity manual for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, p. 64.
- First Year Experience curriculum currently includes Title IX training and resourcing. The college is exploring ways to enhance this for the 2023-24 academic year.
- The college completes a campus climate survey on a bi-annual basis.
- The college shared the complete findings of the Cozen O’Connor review with the Hesston College community and the public on April 14.
- The Vice President of Student Life resigned effective April 12 for other employment.
The college will continue to consider how we might best address the remaining items as we move forward.
What action is the college taking to address the findings and prevent and address sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct on campus?
The college will develop a plan to implement all of the recommendations specified in the report. As outlined in President Joseph A. Manickam and Board of Directors Chair Ken G Kabira’s April 14, 2023, message to the community, this work will be guided by the following goals:
- Increasing the resources invested in training and supporting administrators, staff and faculty to prevent sexual harassment and assault; to meet the full requirements of Title IX reporting and management obligations; and to support survivors with compassion.
- Scrutinizing all college processes and practices used in receiving, reviewing, investigating and adjudicating Title IX complaints and in following up with and supporting those affected by related decisions.
- Acting upon the reality that while the principle and practice of restorative conflict resolution is fundamental to many aspects of Hesston’s campus life, we recognize that the way it was used in the past in addressing matters of gender-based harassment and violence was problematic and harmful.
How can students, faculty and staff participate in the process as these changes are implemented?
The college will continue to communicate openly and regularly with all students, faculty and staff about plans and actions to implement the report’s recommendations. As part of this process, the college will identify opportunities through which the community can contribute input, feedback and suggestions on these plans and actions.
We have also created a dedicated email address, email@example.com, for students, faculty and staff to submit questions, concerns, suggestions and feedback.
What resources does the college currently devote to Title IX?
- Employs a full-time Title IX coordinator;
- Has male and female staff identified as non-mandated reporters;
- Provides training and resources to students, faculty and staff on Title IX issues throughout the year and during the First Year Experience programming;
- Requires students to complete EverFi’s online sexual assault program, Haven;
- Offers an online sexual assault prevention education program;
- Conducts a bi-annual campus climate survey; and
- Has a partnership with Safehope, an external organization that provides advocacy and support to all survivors and secondary victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The Hesston College Title IX Reporting website contains detailed information about all related resources. As a result of this review, the college will identify additional resources, training and investments needed to fully ensure the college is meeting its responsibilities to its students, faculty and staff under Title IX and the Clery Act.
What should a student, faculty, or staff member do if they experience sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other forms of sexual misconduct on campus or during campus activities?
Any student, faculty or staff member who experiences sexual assault, sexual harassment or other forms of sexual misconduct on campus or during college activities, or is aware of such incidents happening to others, is strongly encouraged to report those experiences to the Title IX office. Contact information is available on the college’s Title IX website.