Photo by Carin Houser
Photo by Carin Houser

Letter to the Editor: Millikin’s Sexual Assault Policies

December 5, 2021

We are writing in response to the recent allegations of inadequacies with sexual assault policies at Millikin University. We are outraged and devastated by the experiences of gender-based violence conveyed by survivors on this campus. These experiences were most recently communicated in the Medium article “My Experience As a First-Year Student at Millikin University” posted on Nov. 15, 2021, the subsequent WAND-TV story “Millikin students outraged by sexual assault policy changes,” and a petition started by students regarding Changes to Millikin University’s Sexual Violence Policy

As researchers and educators, we applaud these students for coming forward and wanting to change the status quo at Millikin. We support victims and survivors of all forms of gender-based violence in their quest for accountability. As faculty, we are often the first to hear when Milikin’s reporting processes fail our students. For years many of us have heard from students about the inadequacies and lack of a victim-centered approach taken at Millikin to investigate sexual assault accusations on campus. Sexual violence is more prevalent at college campuses compared to other types of crimes, which is why it is imperative to formulate better reporting processes on our campus. In fact, research has found approximately 26.4% of females, 6.8% of males, and 23.1% of transgender college students have been sexually assaulted

Consequently, Millikin University is not unique among universities in facing sexual assault on campus, but we believe this conversation started by our students provides an opportunity to reevaluate and improve our approach. We believe the process needs to be drastically revised and below we offer a few recommendations to enact necessary change.

  1. We are asking that Millikin consult trauma-informed, data-driven resources for therapeutic intervention within our community to ensure that it best serves the survivors on this campus and make policy changes accordingly. Millikin is required by the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act  (110 ILCS 155/) to provide a comprehensive policy concerning sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking consistent with governing federal and state law. 
  2. While we realize that the reporting processes for all sexual misconduct cases are different, we would like the main stages of the process to be outlined as a handout for survivors. When victims report to Millikin, many times they are not able to retain information on the process due to trauma and the effects of post-traumatic stress. After speaking with survivors about how to improve the process, they recommended a simple handout and regular updates from the Office of Campus Life and/or the Deputy Title IX coordinator on the status of the process and how the case is moving forward. 
  3. According to Millikin’s policy, both parties are permitted to have an advisor or support person of their choice at the proceedings and any related meeting, but we have spoken with students who have reported that this is not the case. We urge the Office of Campus Life and/or the Deputy Title IX coordinator to ensure that all victims be informed of proceedings and interviews with enough lead time to bring an advisor or support person of their choice in order to minimize retraumatization. 
  4. We ask that faculty receive further trauma-informed and victim-centered training on sexual assault procedures and reporting on campus that will assist us as mandatory reporters for this campus and better serve our students. This training could occur at the opening faculty workshop in August. We also encourage increased outreach and education of Millikin’s sexual assault policies with students, especially BIPOC and international students who are often reluctant to engage with reporting processes due to the carceral state and cultural norms.
  5. We would like a review and audit of all sexual assault procedures, cases, and aggregate statistics by an outside entity to improve our reporting process and serve our students. Millikin must do more to prevent, respond to, and resolve incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus and an audit of procedures lies at the heart of reforming our process.

We propose that a revised procedure be put in place by the end of the academic year, including a specific timeline and clear assignments as to how Millikin will be addressing each of these concerns. Most of our proposed ideas do not require money but rather a change in response and approach. Furthermore, we view this as a humanitarian and a retention issue. In order to help restore survivors and maintain them as students, we firmly believe things need to change.

 

Sincerely,

Laura A. Dean, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Political Science

Amber Lusvardi, Instructor, Political Science

Nancy J. Curtin, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Communication

Mary E. Garrison, LCSW, ACSW, Professor, Social Work

Travis E. Wilcoxen, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Biology

Denice Love, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Education

Melissa McManus Scircle, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology

Julie Bates, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, English

Lyle J. Salmi, Professor,  Art

Linda L. Collinsworth, Ph.D., Professor and Chair Psychology

Sara Theis, Associate Professor, School of Theatre and Dance

Georgette C. Page, Ph.D. Associate Professor, School of Education

RJ Podeschi, Dean, Tabor School of Business

David J. Horn, Ph.D., Professor, Biology

Carrie Trimble, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Marketing

Carmella J. Braniger, Ph.D., Professor, English

Elizabeth Gephart, DNP, APRN, Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Joyce Bezdicek, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Education

Rachel A. Bicicchi, M.A., Associate Professor, Staley Library, and Director of Online Learning

Joe A. Stickles, Jr., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Mathematics and Computational Sciences

James V. Rauff, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science

Jana Henry Funderburk, MFA, Professor, Theatre & Dance

Paula R. Stickles, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Julio Enríquez-Ornelas, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Spanish

Emily J. Olson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Elizabeth Hollendonner, MLIS, Assistant Professor, Staley Library

Eun-Joo Lee, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Hee Young Choi, Ph. D., Associate Professor, School of Education

Jefferson Farber, MFA, Assistant Professor, School of Theatre and Dance

Jorge A. Chávez-Rojas, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Sociology

Tom Robson, Ph. D., Associate Professor, School of Theatre and Dance

Jen Schroeder,  Ph. D., Professor, Biology

 

CC: Dean Randy Brooks, Dean Laura Ledford, Dean Pam Lindsey, Dean RJ Podeschi, Dr. Craig White, Vice-President Raphaella Prange, Dean of Campus Life, Paul Lidy

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