Mixed Reactions as Sexual Misconduct Report Goes Paperless

Sarah Cornett

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Beginning this year, students reporting sexual misconduct will now use online reporting instead of a paper form, a change from the policy of previous years.

The familiar pink paper forms from years past, found in residence hall bathrooms, offices and other campus buildings, were removed at the start of this year. They have been replaced with small information sheets detailing the process of reporting sexual assault with the new online forms, part of Advocate, Whitman’s new data gathering system.

Advocate aims to consolidate multiple reports of campus abuse and discrimination. In addition to sexual misconduct, students can report hate crimes, policy violations which include theft and academic dishonesty, and concerns that one student may have for another, including eating disorders, depression and alcohol abuse. Administrators of the new streamlined system, called the Community Care Form, hope it will improve data collection and efficiency when responding to reports.

“We realized that some of the hate crime reporting form was out of date. At that point, the Community Care Form grew,” said Barbara Maxwell, Whitman’s sexual misconduct prevention coordinator and associate dean of student programs and activities.

The change was motivated by a desire to provide students with privacy and to make the system more efficient. She and Clare Carson, assistant dean of students, are the only administrators who see the online reports when they are submitted.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do this is that it allows students to fill it out in private. We tried to put them in semi-private spots last year, but it was never really private in bathrooms or offices,” said Maxwell.

Students have had mixed reactions to the change, though they are mostly positive. Sophomore Ellen Ivens-Duran, a member of Feminists Advocating Change and Empowerment (FACE) and is involved with the Green Dot program, commented that the stigma that could be associated with reporting is a greater issue than a change in forms.

“I think that while it does make reporting more accessible, we need to change campus culture and have an ongoing conversation to make people comfortable reporting,” she said.

Though the form now covers multiple areas, the most notable change is in sexual misconduct reporting. Other forms in the realm of the Community Care Form have been online before, but the sexual misconduct form has always been paper. The unfamiliarity worries administrators like Maxwell who want to ensure students are aware and feel comfortable using the resource.

“Now that it’s online, they’re accessible 24/7, but we need to know how we can keep it still visible,” she said.

Sophomore Katie Steen, co-president of FACE , asserted that the online forms do give students greater privacy, but expressed concerns that many are unaware that they have to report crimes online.

“I think as long as the information that the switch has happened is readily available, I think it will be fine,” she said. “One possible benefit is that you may avoid some stigma or fear without having to turn in a paper.”

So far, Maxwell has not noticed a change in numbers of sexual misconduct reports as a result of the form.

“In the past, a lot of times I would be the person who would fill out the pink form [with a student].” she said. “Now students will come to see me and we fill it out together online.”

Though Maxwell has felt that the change has been successful thus far, she hopes to make the new form more visible. Many upperclassmen students are accustomed to the pink forms and may not have read Maxwell’s initial email at the start of the year detailing the change or seen the small information sheets now in campus bathrooms.

“I would be curious to hear from students about ways to make [the form] more visible. If you forget it’s there, or don’t know it’s there, then it’s the same thing as not knowing that it’s there at all,” she said.

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