December 4, 2016

Webster flip-flops on sexual assault prevention course

Completion of the online Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training Course will remain a requirement of all incoming students to Webster campuses this year.

In April, The Journal reported the university would no longer make the online sexual assault prevention course a requirement for undergraduates.  This year, the program returned as part of students’ course listings in World Classroom.

Webster University Conduct Officer and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Philip Storm said the expectation is for the training to be a requirement for all students.

“We believe it is that important,” Storm said.

Storm is a former community director in Housing and Residential Life and took on the role of Student Conduct Officer/Deputy Title IX Coordinator in January 2016.

Title IX is the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in school programs and activities for all educational institutions receiving federal funding.

In the introductory video to the online course, Dean of Students Ted Hoef reiterates Webster’s position on the requirement.

“Because this is such an important topic, the University is requiring every student to complete sexual misconduct prevention training,” Hoef said.

Dean of Students Ted Hoef hosts portions of Webster's sexual assault prevention video.

Dean of Students Ted Hoef hosts portions of Webster’s sexual assault prevention video.

The course is part of Webster’s ongoing programming following the 2014 release of the Obama Administration guidelines to assist with enforcement of Title IX.

Among those guidelines, released by the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, were instructions for providing regular training for students “to promote campus-wide awareness and discussion of Title IX-related issues.”

Kalani Seaver, SGA Ambassador of Student Inclusion, and other students challenged the university last year on its sexual assault and harassment policies in light of the task force recommendations. Seaver said they left the talks Seaver left the talks thinking the online course was going to be a requirement.

However, only 29 percent of the student body completed the course by April.

Seaver said Webster should make the consequences for not taking the course more punitive. The requirement currently does

not carry any negative consequences for students who do not complete the course.

“There has to be less leniency in how we handle this and I think Webster is always trying to be lenient about how to reprimand students for their bad behavior. I don’t think this is one of those areas where we can have room to do that right now,” Seaver said.

Ultimately, the recommendations of the Obama task force allow each campus to implement programming as it sees fit.

This semester, Webster is focusing sexual assault prevention training toward all incoming students, including transfers, with a larger portfolio of offerings around the topic including peer-led dialogues and peer educators.

Storm said the on-campus programming is well underway and covers key concepts presented in the online training course, but also goes more in-depth.

“In fact, this week was the first week we talked about the history

of Title IX,” Storm said.

Webster’s sexual harassment policy provides for student involvement at the administrative level, but Seaver was unable to confirm which SGA members will be on the Sexual Offense Hearing Board, a component of the university’s process following a report of sexual assault.

“The hearing board needs students,” Storm said.

However, Seaver did say there are members of SGA this year who are focused around Title IX and how Webster is handling the directives of the law.

“From my perspective on SGA, I think it is 100 percent possible to get a board put together with people who are passionate about looking at [Storm’s] plans for getting this all together,” Seaver said.

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