Director of Student Conduct and Development Joe Hall and Director of Public Safety Ali Awadi addressed Allegheny Student Government on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to present the Student Conduct Report for the 2015-16 academic year.
The report encompassed the numbers for both academic and non-academic conduct policy violations. Included in the non-academic violations are cases of violations of the sexual misconduct policy.
During the 2015-16 academic year, according to the report, the student conduct system reported six alleged violations, a decrease from the 2014-2015 report. The report says there were three suspensions, three “warning/probation level” sanctions and zero expulsions related to sexual misconduct.
The report found that for all other non-academic violations in the same period, 103 students received warnings, 56 were placed on probation, nine were suspended and zero were expelled.
Hall noted that the number of formally reported sexual assaults has declined since the 2014-15 report. Sen. Amy Currul, ’17, asked if there was a reason for the decline. Hall said he did not have a “perfect answer.”
“I would like to think that education, our bystander intervention program and other programs we have offered on campus have helped,” Hall said.
Hall said he, Awadi and the Title IX Coordinator Gilly Ford have also been speaking with the college’s athletic teams on sexual assault. He said while it is not an all-encompassing solution, he feels it may have made some impact.
“We are not targeting athletics, but we realize that is a significant population of our students. … I think that helps, but I don’t know if that’s the primary reason,” Hall said.
Since the program began in August 2016, Hall said they have spoken to the majority of the athletic teams on campus.
Currul also raised concerns regarding why the college plays any role in investigating sexual assault and why such cases are not turned over to local law enforcement.
“It’s an actual crime. Why are you not handing it over to the police?” Currul asked.
Awadi said when an incident of sexual assault occurs, the student is always made aware of their options, which include reporting the assault to Meadville City Police. He said some prefer not to report to law enforcement and prefer to handle it through the college’s process.
“It’s up to the complainant. It’s not up to us,” Awadi said.
Co-director of Student Affairs Matt Hartwell, ’18, said a student might feel more comfortable reporting to the school than filing a report with police. He said the school can also offer more protection to the complainant after they have reported than the legal system could and it also gives them more control over what happens next.
“Once you [file a report with police], the law does not protect the complainant. If you go to the public police, it’s out of the complainant’s hands. It’s gone,” Hartwell said.
Hall was also asked when a student is suspended in a case of sexual assault if any provisions are made to protect the complainant upon the respondent’s return.
“Before someone is approved to return, there are going to be some educational requirements that they need to complete,” Hall said. “That could be counseling, that could be follow up through [the Title IX] office, it could be a return meeting with the dean of students and myself to put some stipulations in place.”
Stipulations, according to Hall, can include no-contact orders and ensuring the returning respondent is not placed in the same residence hall as the complainant. He said the college works to limit contact between the two parties as much as possible.
“We try to work with schedules as best we can to limit interaction,” Hall said.
Awadi and Hall acknowledged on a small campus like Allegheny’s it is not always possible to eliminate all types of interaction. Awadi said a no-contact order does not mean that the two parties cannot be in the same place, it just precludes either party from communicating with the other in any way. He said this includes all forms of social media and any contact through a third party.
“If they have done everything we have asked them to do, most likely they will be approved to return,” Hall said.
The most common violation of the student conduct policy, according to the report, is alcohol. The report found that 221 students went through the conduct process during the 2015-16 academic year, down from 274 the year before. Out of those violations, 70 percent “involved alcohol.”
The report also listed figures for honor code violations. The last academic year saw 35 “warnings” issued for honor code violations, six students placed on probation and zero suspensions.
Sixty-two percent of students who pass through the honor code hearing process are first-year students, according to the report.
Hall said the Class of 2020 was the first to receive a specific session just for academic integrity during its orientation. He said he hopes this will help to reduce the number of academic violations among first-year students.