The fliers line the bathroom stalls. Your eyes may rest for half a beat on the posters taped across the various walls across campus, and with a passing glance, you might continue on with your day.
Eight people reported being sexually assaulted at Florida Tech in 2014, one of those in a residence hall.
Of the eight that were reported, only four of them were sanctioned in what is called the University Disciplinary Committee: a panel of people that finds an accused guilty or not guilty.
The UDC handles all disciplinary sanctions brought against students, not just sexual assault allegations. It’s made up of faculty, staff and students. Dr. Dwayne McCay appoints the three faculty and staff members, and the Student Government President appoints the seven Justices. “It’s a big responsibility,” said Jess Cushman, SGA President. “It requires confidentiality.”
So to get to the end process, which can seem harrowing, you have to take it back to the beginning.
If a student thinks she or he has been sexually assaulted, she can go to many resources on campus. If she lives in a Residence Hall, she can talk to her RA, though it should be noted RAs are a mandatory reporters. This means they’re required to report it to Security, and an investigation will continue. Pretty much anyone a student tells that’s in an administrative position is a mandatory reporter except CAPS, the Health Center and the Clergy.
After telling someone, whether it be an RA or a professor or someone else, the next step will probably almost always be going to Security.
When going to Security, a student will be asked if they want to file a report with Melbourne Police.
Florida Tech’s Holzer Health Center doesn’t have the resources to have rape kit testing done, mainly because of legal reasons, according to Joni Oglesby, Title IX Coordinator, and so Security always gently encourages victims to have rape kit tests done at the nearby hospital with Melbourne Police if they’re willing.
“We try to get all the victims to allow us to call the police,” said Kevin Graham, director of Security. “Many times, they’re very apprehensive about that. But they have up to two years, they have a certain time period in which they can file a criminal complaint.”
The University is investigating for a violation in the student code of conduct, while if the student also files a report with Melbourne Police at the same time, MPD will be investigating for a violation of the Florida Crimes Code.
A student can be found guilty of one, or both, or neither of these violations if they’re accused of a sexual assault.
Graham explained that he and the other Title IX members encourage sexual assault victims to use their rights and to preserve evidence. “All the evidence would have been destroyed if we do it, because we’re not prosecuting, or it might be packaged incorrectly. So we try to get them to report to the police,” he said.
“We train the RAs in saving evidence, not changing clothes. I’ve been in Reslife for over eleven years,” said Greg Connell, Assistant Director of Resident Life. “When it immediately happens, I think a lot of individuals want to get past it, want to get over it, but I think when times eclipses and after it happens to them, I think they want to go back and they feel more empowered, and they want to take action against what happens to them. So if you don’t save that evidence, it makes it harder.”
Immediately after calling MPD and filing a report, if that’s what the victim chooses, Security asks if they would like a victim’s advocate or counseling. Florida Tech has a partnership with Serene Harbor Domestic Violence Shelter. “We’re with them all the way, talking to them and letting them know what we can do for them,” Graham said.
Once the victim has reported to Security, investigating officer Morgan McKinnon gathers the facts of the case.
Security then presents the facts of the case to the UDC, who then holds a hearing.
“We strongly encourage our students to use their rights. It’s in their rights to bring forth charges. We strongly encourage you to go to law enforcement, we strongly encourage you to go to health center, the hospital, counseling, campus security to do an incident report, while the incident is fresh in their minds in case they do want to pursue charges,” said Dean Bowers, Dean of Student Affairs. “As more time passes, it just makes it tougher.”
If the assailant is found to be in violation, then the committee asks Bowers to provide the students campus-related criminal history, if applicable. The UDC does not know about this history at any point until this.
Karley Herschelman is a Justice on the UDC this year. “We go through two hours of training, and a mock trial,” she said. “People should know it’s totally anonymous. If the justices know you, they have to remove themselves. Same thing with the faculty.”
The committee deliberates on whether the assailant is guilty or not, based on the facts of the case. Bowers leaves the room for the deliberation. After deciding, Bowers decides what type of sanction the student will get.
In 2014, for sexual misconduct, there was one disciplinary hold, one counseling assessment, one restriction/ loss of privileges, and suspension from the university.
The reported numbers continue to rise. And your gaze may quickly shift from the posters. But they’re there, and according to Oglesby, there are more posters and campaigns coming.
She obtained a $10,000 Avon grant specifically for Title IX efforts, which she said can’t be used for anything else.
“Everyone needs to know: we demand respect,” Oglesby said. “Not just women, men too. No matter your age, sexual orientation, gender identity, you are a human being.”