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Sexual Assault Task Force votes on policy draft

These were the opening words from Christi Hurt, the chairwoman of the sexual assault task force, as she stood in the middle of a conference room, 13 months after the first time the group met.

Tuesday’s meeting addressed final points for draft improvements to the new sexual assault policy on campus.

“Where we were a year ago, I never would have guessed we would have created such a comprehensive report that specifically tailors to the needs of our Chapel Hill community,” said Hurt, also the director of the Carolina Women’s Center.

‘A greased pig’

The longest discussion revolved around consent for sexual activity, specifically when one or both parties are under the influence.

“Absence of a ‘no’ does not mean consent, the presence of a ‘yes’ means consent,” Hurt said.

The task force wrestled with the wording of the section during the debate.

“It feels to me that we are trying to catch a greased pig with (consent when intoxicated), because it comes down to the intent of an individual,” said Allen O’Barr, director of counseling and wellness services.

Hurt said consent cannot be given when one person is incapacitated, but the task force grappled with creating a point before incapacitation.

“I fear that if we try to come up with a perfectly drawn line (for consent before incapacitation), we are going to be here for 20 more years,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp.

Eventually, the policy was approved by vote.

Responsible employees

The task force also discussed who would qualify as a responsible employee under the new policy. A responsible employee is required to report any kind of charges from students to the Title IX office or take action to address the charge if they have the necessary authority.

Gina Smith, a sexual assault expert, said in the current draft, any employees with administrative and supervising roles on campus will qualify, including residential advisors, department chairs and coaches of sports teams.

Task force member Bob Joyce questioned how many responsible employees in total will be at the University in the coming academic year.

“It’s a lot,” Crisp said. “There are a number of student employees that still have to be listed, like orientation leaders for example.”

Smith said the responsible employee role will apply even if the student who approaches the responsible employee is not technically under the supervision of the employee.

The last vote, possibly

The final vote of the day approved the elimination of advisors, leaving their duties to a hearing coordinator. The change is meant to foster an environment for improved discussion before hearings, the task force said. The matter was approved, putting an end to draft recommendations.

“I think we are all excited to get rid of the policy we currently have and give our students a policy we are all proud of,” Hurt said.

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