In May 2014, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart created the Task Force on the Institute Response to Student Sexual Misconduct to evaluate and recommend changes to the process used by the Committee on Discipline (COD) to adjudicate sexual misconduct cases. This task force is one of a broad array of initiatives that Chancellor Barnhart has taken in order to strengthen MIT’s understanding of, response to, and prevention of sexual misconduct.
The Task Force -- made up of students, faculty, and staff -- met during summer 2014, fall 2014, and spring 2015. The Task Force studied the results of the Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault survey; carefully reviewed the body of research literature relevant to sexual assault in college; examined guidance documents and authoritative reports from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault; reviewed data on COD's past actions; and heard presentations from experts.
In April 2015, Chancellor Barnhart sent a letter to the campus community announcing that the task force had made ten recommendations to update the COD process. The recommendations are designed to streamline the COD process, make the COD process easier for both complainants and respondents to engage in, and ensure fairness in every case.
The Task Force engaged in a dialogue with the campus community at a town hall meeting and solicited feedback via email. During summer 2015, the Task Force reviewed all of the feedback offered by members. In fall 2015, the Task Force drafted and proposed new COD Rules to implement its recommendations. The proposed rules were reviewed and commented upon by the COD, Faculty Policy Committee, and others. The new COD Rules which incorporate those changes took effect in November 2015.
Chancellor Barnhart provided the following charge to the task force:
To review the effectiveness of the current Committee on Discipline process on sexual misconduct, stalking, intimate partner violence, and other related types of cases and propose any needed changes to improve the process. This charge includes establishing guidelines for sanctioning in these cases and also considering whether the current COD model is still the best way to handle these cases. It also includes the streamlining of the decision process on campus that relates to the management of formal complaints and informal reports in sexual misconduct cases.
Sixteen people with diverse experiences from around the Institute were invited by the Chancellor to participate in this task force based on their subject matter expertise, experience with handling sexual misconduct cases and wisdom for solving problems at the Institute. The composition of the task force includes students, faculty, and professional staff.
- Alex Byrne, Linguistics and Philosophy
- Don Camelio, Community Development and Substance Abuse
- Munther Dahleh, Chair, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Mark DiVincenzo, Office of General Counsel
- Suzanne Flynn, Linguistics and Philosophy
- Leah Flynn Gallant, Student Activities Office
- Yasmin Inam, Senior, Mechanical Engineering
- Kevin Kraft, Office of Student Citizenship
- Kate McCarthy, Violence Prevention and Response
- Morgan Moroi, Junior, Mechanical Engineering
- Sarah Rankin, Title IX Office
- Robert Redwine, Physics
- Judy Robinson, Office of the Dean for Student Life
- Blanche Staton, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education
- Michelle Tomasik, Graduate Student, Physics
- Jay Wilcoxson, Office of General Counsel
- Chelsea Kott, Office of Student Citizenship
The Task Force made ten recommendations which are aimed at making the COD more effective in its handling of sexual misconduct cases. Prof. Dahleh presented the recommendations in May 2015 at a town hall meeting that all students, faculty, and staff were invited to attend.
One of the recommendations was the creation of a separate process within COD for handling sexual misconduct cases. This recommendation has been accepted and the process depicted below was included in the revisions to the COD Rules in November 2015.
New rules to implement these recommendations were drafted and then reviewed in consultation with the members of the Task Force, the members of the COD, and the Faculty Policy Committee. The Rules were implemented in November 2015. The full text of the revised rules is available here.
All members of the MIT community are invited to join the conversation by submitting feedback electronically. One of the recommendations of the task force is that the new process be reviewed one or two years after it was implemented so that the effectiveness of the new process can be systematically evaluated. Any feedback received from members of the MIT community may be incorporated into that review.