With representatives from the Department of Education scheduled to hold student-only focus groups on campus Tuesday, March 31, as part of its on-going investigation into University of Richmond’s sexual assault policy, Westhampton College deans and other administrators heavily encouraged Richmond students to attend the sessions at the town hall forum on sexual misconduct policies Wednesday night.
“We encourage you all to go, and encourage your friends to go, as many of you work with us,” Westhampton College Dean Juliette Landphair said to the audience, which was predominantly student government members.
Ted Lewis, associate director of common ground, asked the audience to help generate ideas to encourage students to attend the events on Tuesday.
“If there’s other ideas you all have of ways to reach out by all means let us know, because we don’t want any student to feel like they can’t go,” Lewis said.
Richmond students have received multiple emails detailing Tuesday’s schedule, which include open office hours for students, and two open forums, one for Westhampton College and one for Richmond College, each scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Richmond is one of 94 schools under federal investigation for a Title IX policy complaint. The Title IX office at Richmond, which has been under investigation since June, has had 68 sexual misconduct violations reports since August.
The Department of Education has not returned phone calls from The Collegian.
Wednesday night’s forum was the second forum held this semester where deans explained and answered questions on the revamped sexual misconduct policy that increased from three pages to 31 pages.
Kerry Fankhauser, associate dean and deputy Title IX coordinator, views Tuesday as an opportunity for students to voice their opinions without deans present.
“What I would imagine in some of those forums, it will be people who are upset about things, and that’s why they are going to show up,” Fankhauser said. “But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I mean I think that only benefits us to have that information. My hope is just that [the Department of Education] will share it with us.”
The deans will briefly meet with the officials Tuesday morning, but will have limited contact with them throughout the day, Fankhauser said.
The Department of Education’s scheduled visit did not affect the agenda for Wednesday’s forum, Landphair said.
“This meeting was scheduled long before we knew that was happening,” Landphair said.
The deans recently learned the specific date that the Department of Education would visit Richmond, but the deans knew a visit was coming, as it is part of the Department of Education's standard process, Fankhauser said.
Beth Curry, coordinator for sexual misconduct education and advocacy, emphasized the importance of having an open mind.
“We want to be the best we can in providing a learning environment that is safe and not hostile, and if there’s a recommendation that we can improve, bring it on,” Curry said.
If and when Richmond could learn results from the Department of Education’s visit is unclear.
“It could be a long delay between their visit and when we actually receive any more communication from them.” Fankhauser said.
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