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A blog about Title IX at Kenyon circulated widely in the spring and raised concern in the Kenyon community.

The College is barred by federal privacy laws from discussing specific cases that involve Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act and also strives to respect the privacy of all parties involved in investigations into sexual misconduct.

President Sean Decatur decided to launch an independent audit of the Title IX policy and procedures. An independent firm will begin work this summer and continue into the fall so that students may participate. Results of the audit will be shared with the community.

Brackett Denniston ’69, chair of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees, responded with an open letter to the community, and the board endorsed the audit and suggested a special committee to support the audit. “Sexual assault is abhorrent to each and every one of us, and we have zero tolerance for it,” the letter says. “Sexual assault is antithetical to Kenyon’s values. Indeed, it is antithetical to civilization itself. Fairness is also a hallmark of Kenyon and of any civilization. The College’s policy and procedures require the investigators to conduct an adequate, reliable, thorough and impartial investigation.”

The special committee announced by Decatur is co-chaired by trustee Ruth Fisher P’18 and Ted Mason P’10, associate provost and professor of English. Members include Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92, trustee Marshall Chapin ’94, Olivia Cucinotta ’18, Jules Desroches ’18, Professor of Mathematics Judy Holdener, Professor of English Jesse Matz, and Chief of Staff Susan Morse.

Kenyon’s Title IX policy and procedures, Decatur said, will stand up to scrutiny. The policy has been in place since July 1, 2015, and an assessment after a year “seems appropriate,” he said. “Given the current campus conversation, an independent audit is a good approach to analyzing how well it’s working in a transparent fashion.

“We believe our Title IX policy is up-to-date and thorough,” he said. “It was developed after more than a year of research and dialogue on campus, and with consultation, input and approval of every component of campus governance, from the Student Council to the Board of Trustees. But it is important that all members of the Kenyon community share in this confidence in both our policies and our practices. An independent audit will help with this.” 

Decatur noted that the College has invested considerable time and effort in recent years to confront sexual misconduct, including the new Title IX policy and procedures; training of faculty, staff and students; conducting a student campusclimate survey; and expanding the Office for Civil Rights.

“Kenyon is not just an abstract institution or employer,” Decatur said. “It is a community, one in which I live as well as lead.”

Title IX is part of the U.S. Education Amendments approved by the Congress in 1972. It says that no person shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in any education program or activity or be denied the benefits of programs or activities or be subjected to discrimination.

In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to institutions of higher education emphasizing that “the sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination.” Colleges and universities were told “to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

The Kenyon Title IX policy is included on the College website, with a news archive that includes related announcements, a blog on the subject written by Decatur, and the open letter to the community written by Denniston. The Alumni Bulletin will more fully explore the issue and its impact on Kenyon in a forthcoming issue.

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