Written by Shayndel Valles
Photo by Shayndel Valles
Instances of sexual harassment and assault are an unfortunate reality that can hinder student and staff experiences in higher education. This issue is prompting discussions on the best ways to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment at Elgin Community College.
According to the Center for Women and Families, the Red Zone is the period of time from the beginning of fall semester to Thanksgiving break when sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses spike. Freshman females are the most vulnerable, although every student regardless of age or gender is at risk.
“Within the five and a half years that I’ve been here, we’ve not had a sexual assault complaint on campus,” said ECC’s Chief of Police David Kintz. “One of the things to attribute to that is we don’t have residence halls here as well.”
Kintz and his officers integrate themselves into the student population and develop relationships with them through various activities. They recently partnered with Student Government to host a Drunk Busters Event to raise awareness for drunk and distracted driving.
“I’ll give Student Life the credit for all the activities that they do to address the awareness for [sexual harassment],” said Kintz. “There’s a lot of prevention-type activities and informational activities that I think contribute to the awareness that help make a safe environment around here.”
First year students Kenzie Kenders and Ella Lange report feeling safe on ECC’s campus. They often see ECC police at building entrances and around the parking lots.
“If I’m walking around or driving by, [the officers] will wave ‘hi’,” said Lange. “[They’re] nice guys.”
Kintz hopes to make students feel more comfortable with law enforcement and apt to come forward with any allegations. He encourages people to please come forward and contact campus police with any potential questions, concerns or issues.
“We are here as a resource for not only students but also staff,” said Kintz. “We encourage people to take advantage of that.”
Chief Human Resource Officer Anthony Ray takes sexual harassment violations very seriously.
Title IX of 1972 is the federal law that guarantees every student access to the benefits of education free from sexual harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking. It requires schools to address complaints of sexual violence or risk losing federal funding.
“There are different things that we will do as far as reporting and handling [of the accusation] depending on where the report comes from,” said Ray. “We will handle it just slightly differently if it comes from a student or if it comes from an employee.”
All ECC employees are required to take two training modules each year: the Illinois State sexual harassment training and the federal sexual harassment training. Each module is about an hour each and is designed to train people on signs of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.
ECC’s Sex Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Interpersonal Violence Policy and Procedure 3.403 exemplifies sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, repeated date requests, sexual gestures, explicit sexual cartoons or images, discussions about sexual activity/orientation, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual misconduct, sexual assault/sexual violence and stalking.
In all investigations, Ray is very strict on making sure that witnesses, victims and those accused of sexual harassment are made aware of ECC’s No Retaliation policy. This is to protect victims from being revictimized.
“We follow up vigorously with any allegations of retaliation or any violations of that policy,” said Ray. “In some cases, we will tell the person that’s accused to stay away from certain people or certain witnesses and don’t make any unnecessary contact. Lastly, we will remove them from certain areas if we need to.”
Victims of sexual harassment can now report to any department they feel comfortable with or have an advocate reach out on their behalf.
“We know it’s traumatizing for [victims] to have to recount that story,” said Kintz. “There’s been a history in the past of some people who have been bounced around and that’s not right. We’ll figure out where it happened and then physically transfer that to that police department to avoid the victim having to make the report multiple times.”
By filing a Title IX complaint, victims have the right to ask for an internal investigation and reasonable academic accommodations. Any inquiries or complaints should be directed to Associate Dean of Recruitment, Outreach and Global Engagement Lauren Nehlsen or Marilyn Prentice, executive director of EEO/AA, Title VII, Title IX & FOIA compliance.
If you have been affected by sexual harassment, do not hesitate to seek support. Students can call 847-214-7390 or visit B-120 to schedule an appointment with a Wellness Professional.