Mandatory reporting and misconduct

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reindeer
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Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by reindeer »

I have been wondering about the Title IX implications of misconduct reporting in quizbowl. My Title IX training has taught that graduate student TAs (and those in similar student-facing roles) have reporting obligations for Title IX violations, including sexual harassment and misconduct, that occur against students at their school. These obligations are described reasonably clearly here (although Title IX policies have recently changed somewhat). My training has indicated that the reporting requirement exists no matter how the mandatory reporter finds out about the misconduct. Harvard specifically is vague on this requirement in all of the public-facing documents I’ve been able to find, but some other schools have clearer policies:
  • Yale (page 3): the reporting obligation exists even if the information “is second-hand, a rumor or vague” or “the incident took place away from campus or when school was not in session”
  • Columbia (page 2): essentially the same obligation as Yale above
  • Michigan Tech: “incidents that are reported directly, are witnessed, or are reported by a third party (parent, other student), posted on fliers around campus, published in a local newspaper, etc. - all of these should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator(s)”
These policies indicate pretty clearly that anyone covered by them would be required to report instances of misconduct that they heard about, for example, on these forums or other quizbowl-related social media, if someone involved in the misconduct attended their school.
I believe that the policy at some schools is that the reporting obligation only exists if the misconduct is disclosed in the course of the actual university duties, so it’s likely that not every mandatory Title IX reporter in quizbowl has the same obligation. Regardless, there are many members of this community who are or will someday be potentially covered by some sort of mandatory reporting requirement. It seems desirable to have some clarity on this topic, since I imagine most people who share their experiences of sexual misconduct in quizbowl are not intending to trigger Title IX reports.
Additionally, some people have jobs that make them mandatory reporters for child abuse. I understand that comes with a strict set of obligations that I’m less familiar with, and would be interested in hearing from anyone in this category.

I’m interested in any thoughts anyone has on this topic. My immediate questions are: does anyone have any insight on how these mandatory reporting requirements interact with disclosures of misconduct in quizbowl? How do we respect people’s privacy & desire to share their experiences informally while also living up to our external obligations?
I also want to add that, of course, misconduct can still be disclosed to university Title IX offices even by a non-mandatory reporter. Currently the primary mechanism for addressing misconduct in quizbowl is removing the offender from the community. But this is worth further discussion too: under what circumstances is that not enough of a response? When should we encourage making a report to the relevant school(s) as well?
Olivia
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by Grace »

reindeer wrote: Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:00 pm Currently the primary mechanism for addressing misconduct in quizbowl is removing the offender from the community. But this is worth further discussion too: under what circumstances is that not enough of a response? When should we encourage making a report to the relevant school(s) as well?
I want to thank Olivia for opening this discussion, which I will confess didn't even occur to me, despite that fact that I have been a mandated reporter as a graduate TA. I think that it's absolutely essential for us to figure out how our overlapping responsibilities--to our legal obligations, to our community, and to each other--interact with each other, and if it's possible, I would like to see the community formalize a general procedure for how to handle disclosures of misconduct in the context of mandated reporter status. As Olivia pointed out, mandated reporting policies may differ from school to school, and it's never been clear to me whether there's a time limit to those obligations*, but we need to have this conversation right now.

*i.e. If I find out about an incident that clearly fits Title IX reporting requirements before I TA, does that still fall under something I must disclose once I become a TA? What if I learn about an incident between stints of TAing, but I'm not actively a TA at the time I learn of the incident?
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by AKKOLADE »

I had a similar question regarding my status as a pharmacist while I was also the president of PACE a couple of years ago. I approached a lawyer who specializes in pharmacy law & asked him what would be my duty as a pharmacist if I were to receive a report as PACE's president. He informed me that in that circumstance, I would not have an obligation inherent to being a pharmacist to act on that.
Fred Morlan
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ThisIsMyUsername
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Thank you for raising this issue, Olivia.

In one of my teaching gigs, I went through very basic Title IX training. (Yes, only one of them.) It was so short that I don't have anything particularly deep or insightful to say, and in general I don't think I'm in a good position to prescribe anything (and I apologize if anything I say here sounds too prescriptive). But I wanted to mention one of the standard procedures we are trained to carry out, and how that might inform this general discussion.

While it's probably fairly obvious why mandatory reporting exists (since there is a high risk of things being swept under the rug if authority figures aren't under obligations to do something), a lot of people are very uncomfortable with how it completely removes agency from the victim of misconduct, whose situation is reported whether they like it or not. (This should probably be a strong consideration if/when your club appoints a misconduct officer, and you are choosing between appointing a grad student or an undergraduate.)

The way I was instructed to handle this problem was as follows: If a student appears to be about to disclose a case of misconduct to you, you make sure you inform them of their options before they disclose anything. Basically, you say something along the lines of: "Please know that if you are about to discuss an incident of misconduct with me, I am legally obliged to report this to the Title IX office. If you are not comfortable with my doing that, I will provide you with campus resources that will allow you to discuss this matter confidentially. If you are fine with this, please continue."

I've heard other people describe this process as warning the victim about potential ramifications of their disclosure. Yes, you are indeed doing that, but I think that characterization risks placing the emphasis on the wrong aspect of this. You are first and foremost informing of them of their options, so they can choose how to proceed.
reindeer wrote: Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:00 pm My immediate questions are: does anyone have any insight on how these mandatory reporting requirements interact with disclosures of misconduct in quizbowl? How do we respect people’s privacy & desire to share their experiences informally while also living up to our external obligations?
I also want to add that, of course, misconduct can still be disclosed to university Title IX offices even by a non-mandatory reporter. Currently the primary mechanism for addressing misconduct in quizbowl is removing the offender from the community. But this is worth further discussion too: under what circumstances is that not enough of a response? When should we encourage making a report to the relevant school(s) as well?
To address Olivia's questions more directly, I wonder this: Is it actually a net benefit for quizbowl to have a default position on when player bans and the like are (to use Olivia's words) "not enough of a response" / when to encourage going through other channels? Or is it better to perform a more expansive version of what I was taught to do in Title IX training? This would entail saying something like: "Here is a range of options for what we can do internally within quizbowl, and what can be done through external routes. If you ask us to exercise any of these internal mechanisms, we will abide by your wishes; but know that there are the following more powerful options at your disposal." Put another way: doesn't having any sort of default position necessarily encroach upon the agency of a victim?

Since this is a very complicated issue, I wish to acknowledge an argument against what I've just suggested: that it is potentially problematic to place all the onus on the victim; traumatic events are difficult and confusing enough without heaping the weighty decisions on the victim's shoulders. Even acknowledging that truth, however, I have doubts arising from my belief that quizbowlers are generally not going to be the best people to advise someone on these matters. That is, they may be the best people with whom to talk through the range of internal options (since no one outside of quizbowl knows about them), but are probably not the best people to help someone talk through the question of whether to pursue external rather than internal options.
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

Thank you so much for posting this, Olivia! One thing to note is that Title IX has recently undergone some major changes. These were mandated by Devos and co. on May 6 of this year, and colleges were supposed to become compliant by yesterday (8/14/2020). Inside Higher Ed has an article about it all, including a useful sidebar of the largest changes (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/202 ... of%20proof). Most of these changes give the survivor of harassment or assault less institutional power or options for recourse.

On a practical level, the very recent changes might mean that your school's Title IX offices are a lot busier right now getting their stuff done and publicized, on top of dealing with the pandemic. If you want to get your club's officers and/or grad students trained on title IX reporting or want to ask for specific guidance they might not have as much time as usual. On the other hand, maybe schools will be offering more classes and sessions about title IX since the rules are all changing.

Another quizbowl-relevant fact I learned from this article is that colleges are allowed but not obligated to be responsible for harassment or assault that occurs in a different country. UChicago gave me a very biased idea of what "normal quizbowl travel" is, but this is definitely something to look up and see how your school handles if you're a team that competes in Canada.
Athena Kern
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reindeer
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by reindeer »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: Sat Aug 15, 2020 8:56 pm Is it actually a net benefit for quizbowl to have a default position on when player bans and the like are (to use Olivia's words) "not enough of a response" / when to encourage going through other channels? Or is it better to perform a more expansive version of what I was taught to do in Title IX training? This would entail saying something like: "Here is a range of options for what we can do internally within quizbowl, and what can be done through external routes. If you ask us to exercise any of these internal mechanisms, we will abide by your wishes; but know that there are the following more powerful options at your disposal." Put another way: doesn't having any sort of default position necessarily encroach upon the agency of a victim?
There's a lot that's thought-provoking in your post, John, but I just wanted to respond to this quickly--I don't want to imply that I think we should necessarily have a default position or rigid, pre-defined set of rules about this. I agree that we should highly value preserving the agency of people who experienced misconduct. I think the hypothetical discussion is still worth having, though: talking through what the community can accomplish, the limits of our ability to respond, etc can help guide us in future instances. It's easier to live up to a set of values that you've already defined, or at least thought about, than it is to think them up in the moment, right?
Olivia
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Re: Mandatory reporting and misconduct

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

AKKOLADE wrote: Sat Aug 15, 2020 8:27 pm I had a similar question regarding my status as a pharmacist while I was also the president of PACE a couple of years ago. I approached a lawyer who specializes in pharmacy law & asked him what would be my duty as a pharmacist if I were to receive a report as PACE's president. He informed me that in that circumstance, I would not have an obligation inherent to being a pharmacist to act on that.
Legally mandated reporting is indeed an important thing to consider when working with minors (either MS, HS, or young college kids). Organizations running HS tournaments that offer bias/harassment response need to know where their staffers legally stand and how to go about handling any reports. It's a bit tangential to the Title IX, though, which was the focus of Olivia's post.

EDIT: Mandated reporting is important and I should not have necessarily implied that it does not belong in this conversation. I found this anecdote sort of tangential to the discussion at hand, but it does open up discussion of an important aspect of tournament and team management.
Athena Kern
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University of Chicago Class of '18, Team VP '15-'17
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