The University Senate passed four revised policies on sexual misconduct, disability and accessibility, non-discrimination and excused absence — each of which are either revising old policy or formally passing interim policies.
The senate also passed three procedures for sexual misconduct for faculty, staff and students.
Each of these seven pieces of legislation will move forward to University of Maryland President Wallace Loh’s desk and then to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. All legislation requires final approval from both parties.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICY
This university’s sexual misconduct policy has been updated based on this state’s attorney general’s statewide review of sexual misconduct policies and procedures. It better clarifies definitions and makes minor changes, including editing the confidential resources section and specifying that the time frame for investigations and resolutions of complaints is now ideally within “60 business days,” instead of “60 calendar days.”
Behavioral and Social Sciences senator J.T. Stanley and about 15 other university students, many of whom were senators, introduced two amendments to the sexual misconduct policy focused on prevention and transparency; both did not pass by less than eight votes. The prevention amendment would have required all freshman students to receive education on sexual misconduct and rape culture at orientation, UNIV100 or an equivalent during move-in weekend.
“Currently we have a very reactionary approach … we don’t have a concrete plan for prevention,” said Stanley, a senior individual studies major. “Despite everyone being for [the idea of] this, we have not seen the commitment for this … where else, or how, do you expect us to achieve this?”
While it’s not codified in policy, there will be two-day freshman orientation programs on sexual assault this summer and Step Up! bystander intervention training in all sections of UNIV100: The Student in the University next semester, according to a February Diamondback article.
Title IX officer Catherine Carroll said although she applauded the students’ efforts, she did not think this amendment fit appropriately in a document about policy. CARE to Stop Violence coordinator Fatima Burns also cautioned against locking this university into move-in weekend training on sexual misconduct because of how busy the move-in process is.
The transparency, accountability and improvement amendment would have mandated more reports from the Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct office, focusing on how long it’s taking the office to complete cases of sexual misconduct.
“I am currently in the investigation phase and it’s taken five months,” said Lydia Yale, an undergraduate senator from architecture. “I have not been made aware of what is going on. … To reinforce the transparency and accountability of this policy would be important for not only me, but a huge percentage of this university.”
Carroll pointed out that her office does already provide an annual report with much of the data — such as how many investigations they have completed — that the amendment calls for, and noted she is willing to provide more information, such as how much time each investigation takes, despite the amendment not making it into the official policy.
“We value what you’re saying,” Carroll said. “We hear you, and we will address it.”
NON DISCRIMINATION POLICY AND PROCEDURES
Loh approved the updated non-discrimination policy and procedures on an interim basis in late March. This policy ensures that this university creates “an educational, working and living environment that is free from discrimination and harassment,” according to the policy’s language.
The main changes to the policy and procedures were small edits and wording, said Stacey Locke, chair of the Education, Diversity and Inclusion committee. However, the committee did choose to include personal appearance as an explicit term that the policy protects, defined as the “outward appearance of any person irrespective of the sex, with regard to hairstyle, beards, or manner of dress.”
Personal appearance is already protected by the Prince George’s County code, Locke said, so they were able to easily incorporate it into the policy.
“As we were reviewing the red line changes, [we were] always making sure that we’re inclusive of students, faculty and staff,” Locke said, “but the personal appearance piece was probably the biggest change.”
DISABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY POLICY AND PROCEDURES
Loh had also passed the updated disability and accessibility policy and procedures on an interim basis in late March. While the Educational, Diversity and Inclusion committee didn’t change much of the policy — which works to maintain an “inclusive educational, working and living environment for people of all abilities,” according to the policy language — the committee did put forth three administrative recommendations, which the senate also approved.
Based on conversations with constituents, the EDI committee decided there needs to be immediate changes when it comes to different platforms for required trainings, communication of facility outages and the timeliness of paratransit services.
“We have a professor that can’t hear, he wanted to be able to read [the required sexual misconduct training],” Locke said. “We had a staff member who found [the paratransit service] was somewhat unreliable. … We feel that the policy addressed the issue, but we found some things that we want to have administrative action taken now.”
The senate voted to add in an amendment to explicitly include graduate assistants in the policy instead of just students, something that doctorate student Stephanie Cork said she supports.
“There are over 11,000 grad students and only 4,000 are graduate assistants,” Cork said. “Therefore disability-related accommodations may differ greatly from a student and as a graduate assistant. … I hope that this is merely a preliminary step so they can be better researchers, teachers and administrators.”
EXCUSED ABSENCE POLICY
Before this comprehensive excused absence policy, there were two policies only addressing religious observance and illness-related absences, which fell short of the reality of student absences, said Academic Procedures and Standards committee Chair Charles F. Delwiche.
“It created an extremely confusing and complex situation,” Delwiche said. “So not surprisingly, the actual way in which different units dealt with absences varied a lot.”
This new policy addresses bereavement, or a mourning period; mandatory military obligation; university activities and a broader statement for circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as a court date or family death.
“We have a very clear university practice, but there wasn’t actually a policy on that,” Delwiche said. “What the committee was trying to do here was to create a policy that was consistent to current practice. We’re just trying to make everything uniform.”
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that J.T. Stanley is a senior government and politics major. The art caption also incorrectly referred to him as a junior government and politics major. This article has been updated.