The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly heard from Judicial Administrator Michelle Horvath and Title IX Coordinator Sarah Affel, administrators who both oversee areas at Cornell that have recently come under fire for mismanagement, at its meeting Monday.
Horvath began the meeting by pointing out that graduate students, in working with students as their teaching assistants, play an important role in the disciplinary process.
During direct interactions with undergraduates, graduate and professional students are the first responders to flag students’ behavior that “doesn’t seem right” or is “different” from ordinary. Horvath encouraged members to report such behavior to the Alert Team, in order to initiate proactive interventions with students.
Horvath reminded attendees that the J.A. office no longer handles cases under Policy 6.4 — the guidelines for addressing issues of discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence. Instead, cases related to a violation of Policy 6.4 are handled by Title IX coordinators.
Last spring, a report revealed that the J.A. was taking longer to investigate sexual assault cases than permitted was legally allowed by the Department of Education. Since this summer, the Department of Education has levied two Title IX investigations against the University, alleging that its investigations of sexual assault cases have not complied with federal guidelines.
Newly appointed to her position as of June 2016, Horvath said that the J.A. has taken “a different stance on student issues, than past administrations.” She said the office aims to make the disciplinary process educational for students.
“We really wants students to understand the wrongness of their behavior and understand why it occurred,” she said.
Horvath added that the J.A. office strives to ensure that students know “adult decisions come with adult consequences.”
Affel also emphasized the importance of reporting Title IX cases in a timely manner in order to ensure equally timely intervention. If members of the Cornell community have experienced or noticed any form of objectionable conduct, Affel encouraged them to “come tell whoever you are comfortable with talking to.”
“We want to step in before the issue becomes substantially severe, persistent or pervasive, before it becomes a formal disciplinary matter,” Affel said.