In order to combat sexual misconduct on college campuses, many institutions have become open to the idea of making school employees, including professors, mandatory reporters. This means that if a student discloses, or even implies that he or she was sexually assaulted or harassed to an employee, he or she has an obligation to report this incident to the school's Title IX coordinator. In recent years, it's become routine for staff and faculty to mention that they're a mandatory reporter or a “responsible employee” in their introductions. But as bonds are created between students and professors, the concept of mandated reporting understandingly becomes an afterthought to many students.
In higher education, the dynamic between students and staff drastically shifts in comparison to how things were in lower education levels. Since everyone is an adult in these settings, relationships now have the opportunity to develop outside of the classroom, as well as inside. Interactions amidst students, professors, advisors, and counselors may ensue at any time, ranging from office hours to social networking events. All efforts intended to establish opportunities for mentorship and contribute to trust building. This is where the line between friendship and an employee's moral obligation to report becomes muddled.
Students and staff alike have pinpointed a flaw in the system. It is expected of some professors, coordinators, counselors, and advisors, to remain mandated reporters at all times - even when they are a friend in a casual conversation. For some survivors, going to the Title IX office is a big step that they may not be ready for. While informing the Title IX office of sexual misconduct may be a vital step in keeping the entire campus community safe, casting this expectation upon victims to immediately do so isn't fair or realistic. But in the midst of an organic conversation between students and staff, where there are ample comfortability and trust, the expectation of being a mandatory reporter is often forgotten.
This puts faculty and staff in a difficult position. They must decide between potentially betraying a friend's confidence or upholding their status as a mandated reporter. If a student's incident is reported without their consent, it begs the question of whether Title IX's true intentions lie in safeguarding victims. This question could also be posed in cases where respondents go to a trusted friend who happens to be a mandatory reporter for advice.
It's evident that mandatory reporting is a well-intentioned rule that is essential in maintaining campus safety. But in its enforcement, its potential to jeopardize friendships and abolish the confidentiality of parties who are not ready to report should be addressed. As of now, we'll just have to wait and see what the Department of Education suggests in its impending reform guidelines.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.