On Reporting Sexual Assault


“Enough is Enough” Bill passed by Governor Cuomo standardizes the language for the amnesty policy, as well as the definition of consent.


The above Student Bill of Rights should be given to students early on in the student reporting process.
The above Student Bill of Rights should be given to students early on in the student reporting process.

The Observer spoke with Title IX Coordinator Anastasia Coleman for the University and Dean of Students at Lincoln Center Keith Eldredge about the new processes being put into place and how they will affect Fordham.

The Observer: Let’s say a person comes to a professor to report an assault what happens next?

Keith Eldredge: We want students to realize that if you go to a professor and tell them something happened, that the professor is required to report it and that’s our policy. Once the professor reports it, public safety and an administrative support person will come in. 

The Observer: At what point does the student get handed the bill of rights?

KE: It’s usually as soon as we can get the administrative support person to them. We really emphasize people to contact the Title IX coordinator, Dean of Students or Public Safety. Any of the three areas will get in touch with the administrative support person and get the administrative support person to that faculty members office, to their residence hall where they are, to wherever they are.

Anastasia Coleman: The Bill of Rights, along with the Notification of Rights at the Time of First Disclosure are located on the inside cover of the CARE Brochure which is handed to the students by an Administrative Support Person or Public Safety Supervisor. We want to make sure a student understands the first disclosure language. If someone is traumatized, it’s not always easy to read, so we have the Administrative Support Person explain these so they know their options: Students can go to the police, the hospital, students don’t have to, if they don’t want to, so the person knows they are in control and they are the one who can make these informed these decisions.

The Observer: Is that Administrative Support Person the same as the advisor that the complainant gets to choose?

KE: It could be the Administrative Support Person if they want, but it doesn’t have to.

AC:  No, there can be two different people with different roles. The Administrative Support Person (ASP) is assigned to a person and is typically from the Student Affairs staff and is there for support. That ASP is going to be with them, not just through any conduct process if that’s what they choose but check in with them throughout the whole year to make sure the person is receiving whatever support that they need and understand different options the person may have. An ASP is assigned to both the respondent and complainant.  The advisor can be another person that the student wants to bring with them, it can be a friend, parent, lawyer, or someone else. Examples of administrative support persons are

KE: Jenifer Campbell, director of Residential Life at Lincoln Center, Camile Wilson resident director for freshmen students; and we have also trained all the other resident directors as well.

The Observer: How many of the reported cases that you do have go to an Appeals each year?

AC: Last year I only recall one, at Rose Hill. I have a feeling there will be more this year just based on the new law and things in our policy particularly about transcript notion.

The Observer: Who does the Appeals panel consist of?

AC: Three faculty members, one administrator, three students. 

KE: For the SCRC, the Student Conduct Review Council, the faculty members are chosen by the President of the Faculty Senate, Anne Fernald.

AC: Before any appeal takes place, we make sure that there are no conflicts of interest with anybody who is going to be on a panel, that they receive trauma-informed training in addition to being familiar with the process and here’s how to ask questions because we don’t want to  re-traumatize anybody in the Appeals process. And it can be traumatic for both students, not just the student who’s considered to be a victim or survivor but it can also be traumatic for the person who’s been accused.

KE: Students on the council are selected by the USG president. Dr. Dorothy would talk to him [Leighton Magoon] ahead of time, not in detail. Tell him we have this situation, this is the role of the panel, we need you to pick students and we also always pick alternates. We encourage the president to select people who are going to be fair, objective, reasonable. As part of the training, we tell the panel the names and ask if anyone feels there’s a conflict of interest.

The Observer:What is the training like for the Appeals panel?

AC: It is a whole morning before the hearing. We don’t have a pool with the same people we draw from. We want to do a training before the appeal process goes on. It’s kind of lengthy, so you have to devote a good amount of time.

KE: Someone from counseling comes in, most likely Jeff Ng, Anastasia goes in and Michele Burris [Assoc. VP of Student Affairs] goes in and discusses the process.

The Observer: Throughout the whole process, who are the people the complainant will have retell the incident to?

AC: The goal isn’t a lot of retelling. It depends on how it comes through. If the person tells their RA, we’d like to get public safety and the ASP together so that they’re not repeating it.  The ASP is listening, so if that person has to go to the hospital, the student doesn’t have to navigate that.  The ASP has the information and they are only sharing that on a need to know basis.

KE: They make the full report to Public Safety. We invite, an option, the student to provide a written statement as well, which helps with less retelling and further questioning. In the conduct hearing, we are certainly going to talk about it, but it won’t be a retelling. I want to be fair and say we are talking about it.

AC: Public Safety may go back and ask follow up questions because when the person first spoke they may not have told them everything or later there are outstanding questions. Someone who has been through trauma isn’t going to tell a linear story of what happened. If there’s a need for follow-up questions, we want the same person from Public Safety to go back to speak with them.

“Someone who has been through trauma isn’t going to tell a linear story of what happened. If there’s a need for follow-up questions, we want the same person from Public Safety to go back to speak with them.” Title IX Coordinator

The Observer: Throughout the hearing process, are the complainant and respondent ever in the same room together?

KE: No, absolutely not. It’s usually two separate conversations with the complainant and respondent.

The Observer: Describe the changes to the updated amnesty policy.

AC: New York State wanted every school to have the same language. So know it’s physically in our policy and it’s the coded language from the law. We’ve had a medical amnesty but it did not specifically “sit” in our sexual misconduct policy. Now there is new language built into our sexual misconduct first.

KE: It doesn’t change in practice what we’ve been doing. But the text is different. It’s the same spirit.

The Observer: What guidelines or protections are put in place to guard against retaliation on either side?

KE: Sometimes it’s given verbally initially and then the no contact restriction is always given writing. It is at the request of the complainant. We ask them, “Is something you’d find helpful to you?’ We say you’re not allowed to have contact with the other person in any fashion, in person, someone else on your behalf, via social media, email. The emphasis on retaliation is done in a broader conversation about the no contact restriction. We make it clear to the respondent, that they cannot intimidate this person, contact them in anyway. If anything like this should happen, that’s going to be an additional student conduct violation.

AC: If the complainant thinks it’s happening, they are told to call Public Safety at any time of day, so the complainant feels safe. That’s key. You don’t want someone not to feel comfortable reporting something that could be retaliatory.

The Observer: Now that we have two residence halls, would the respondent be moved immediately at the start of the process?

AC: There are times when the complainant wants to move. But most often, we are moving the respondent.

KE: It would be done very early, it can be done really early.

The Observer: If the respondent is found not responsible, would he or she be allowed to move back on campus?

AC: It depends. Unfortunately there are a lot of “it depends.” A no-contact issue can still be in place even if there is no finding of the underlying conduct process. We couch all of these terms under “interim measures,” and they can be put into place if they aren’t going through a hearing.

The Observer: Are there any consequences for students who make false claims?

KE: I want to say from the beginning, false claims are very, very few. They do happen. But that’s not something we expect or see a lot. So someone who puts in a report in good faith, but there’s not enough information to support is very different from a false claim.

AC: We leave it in the policy as a possibility of happening. But it really is viewed on a case by case. Whoever puts in the false report might need some help. There might be an underlying issue as to why they are doing that.

The Observer: We release the Clery set every year, will this be similar? Can we find it on Fordham’s website?

AC: We don’t yet know what the NY State Education Department protocols for reporting will be. The state is in the process of figuring out how this will be set up.

The Observer: Describe the impact statement.

AC: If there is a finding of responsibility, both students are given the opportunity for an impact statement–how this has affected each of them. I think it’s a model based on the criminal court. For the equity part of things, both students will be able to write them before the sanctioning. So if the hearing process finds the respondent responsible for x, then each side has an opportunity to write an impact statement. This would be after the finding and before the sanctioning takes place.