New series educates students on their rights

The “Know Your Rights” series seeks to educate students about three areas of student rights.

Catherine Latour

At the “Know Your Rights” series kick-off event on Thursday, students learned about school policies related to harassment and sexual misconduct.

During the event, Washington and Lee’s Title IX Coordinator Lauren E. Kozak covered the legal framework of sexual assault and harassment cases at the school.

She offered a detailed explanation of Title IX laws and explained that it does not cover sexual assault. Therefore, Guidance Documents determine how cases are carried out, along with other documents such as Clery, Virginia State Law and FERPA.

“Guidance Documents are not law, but a federal agency explaining laws,” Kozak said. “The importance is the fact that…[the documents] can change.”

She proceeded to explain how schools are expected to deal with sexual misconduct.

“[The school] must act to end the harassment, prevent its reoccurrence and remedy its effects,” Kozak said.

Title IX also includes protective measures that should be taken. Some of which are that schools cannot retaliate and must prohibit students from retaliation harassment, must promptly investigate the case brought before them in no more than 60 days, cannot use mediation to resolve sexual assault complaints and must have an equitable complaint.

Kozak then described what steps would be taken once a complaint is filed against a student and the process of determining if disclosure is necessary.

A possible university case begins when the complaint is filed. Then, Kozak meets with the student who filed the complaint to ask some basic questions: Does the student want to change housing, classes, work schedule, or establish a non-contact agreement?

Then, the student decides if they want to open an investigation.

“If a student requests confidentiality or no investigation, the school must make every effort to respect this request,” Kozak said.

Very few students who report sexual misconduct wish to carry out an investigation, Kozak said. However, she made it clear that the school wants to provide remedies regardless if there is an investigation, such as a change in housing or classes.

In the event of an investigation, the investigators are neutral fact finders “designed to be pretty collaborative to accommodate both parties.” They present their facts to a panel and the case is heard.

Kozak then linked the school’s policies to the laws governing sexual misconduct.

Clery, a program that focuses on disclosure about crimes on university campuses, requires that both parties, the accuser and the accused, have the right to an advisor of choice. At W&L, students have a hearing advisor, but during hearings, advisors cannot directly answer questions for or about the students. This rule promotes fairness because if one student has an attorney and the other just has a hearing advisor, that could disadvantage a student unfairly.

Another law Kozak covered was Virginia State Law. She said that it is important to distinguish between the school’s system and the state law system.

“We are in no way determining if a crime has occurred. Virginia law differs at time from our policy…We do not even have the same language as Virginia Law,” Kozak said.

The next event in the series will focus on protests and demonstrations on March 23. The third event will focus on interacting with police on March 30.