HESSTON — Two years after the Hesston College Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Safety completed its review of the college’s procedures and systems around the topics, the college has made progress in the areas of recommended improvements. To date, 42 individual items have been identified and actioned from a list of six major areas of recommendation.
Those recommendations included:
• Implementing modules to raise awareness of sexual misconduct and options for victims.
• Establishing a transparent reporting and investigating procedure for incidents of sexual misconduct.
• Developing a system in the institution including policy development and the hiring and assigning of personnel to manage issues of sexual misconduct.
• Creating a system that supports victims of sexual misconduct.
• Creating a system that holds offenders of sexual misconduct accountable for their action.
• Forming a system of institutional accountability that prioritizes transparency and proactively mitigates future incidents of sexual misconduct.
“Overall, the task force noted that Hesston’s campus is safe, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to incidents occurring or that we don’t have areas we could improve on to offer additional support for reporters of sexual misconduct,” said Monica Miller, Hesston College director of human resources and Title IX coordinator. “We recognize that we’ve had missteps in the past, but the purpose of the task force’s work was to help us understand where and how we can do better for the campus community moving forward.”
Some of the actioned responses to date include:
• The addition of a campus safety section to the Hesston College website that is intuitive and efficient for people to use.
• Including mandatory Title IX training to all first-year students and faculty and staff on an annual basis. So far in fall 2019, 81% of students and 70% of faculty and staff have completed the training.
• Implementation of annual reporting of Title IX reports by semester to the Administrative Council and Board of Directors, as well as an annual overview report to faculty and staff.
• Training 12 faculty and staff members to be College Support Persons whose role is to walk with reporters through reporting and investigation stages.
• Engaging Safehope, a countywide advocacy and support organization for reporters of domestic and sexual violence, as a resource for the Hesston College community. A Safehope representative comes to campus weekly to meet confidentially with those interested in its services.
Miller noted that Hesston College’s general approach to creating a safer campus for all students is to focus on healthy relationships through regular educational and informational opportunities around the topic.
“By helping students understand healthy relationships and how to be in them, it creates a framework and gives options if they find themselves in situations that are unhealthy,” said campus counselor Julie Lehman.
Moving forward, the college has plans in place for continued response to the recommendations.
“Implementing responses to the areas of recommendation is not a one-and-done process. Rather, we view it as a continuous activity evaluating what we have in place and revamping it to ensure the ongoing safety of our students,” said Miller.
Among items in process, Hesston is exploring offering campus-wide bystander intervention training through Goshen (Ind.) College’s Prevention Intervention Network for spring 2020. The college is also working to establish consistent and transparent policies and standards around information sharing in situations of misconduct. In addition, the college is working with a local artist to create a physical memorial to be completed by fall 2020 that acknowledges broken relationships resulting from institutional shortcomings and errors in judgment, and serving as a vow to do better as a community.
Hesston College invites individuals to report any past incidents of misconduct that occurred on campus to Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org, 620-327-8265 or through the anonymous online reporting form at hesston.edu/campus-safety. The college also encourages any past incidents to be reported to local law enforcement or Safehope.