EMU president announces steps to prevent, respond to misconduct

Feb 13, 2017 by

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HARRISONBURG, Va. — President Susan Schultz Huxman launched an Action Plan Steering Committee Jan. 26 at Eastern Mennonite University to ensure EMU meets federal regulations and implements best practices to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.

The appointment of the steering committee is the first of four actions implemented by Huxman in response to board of trustees mandates. The university asked an external agency to review its practices after responding to revelations of alleged sexual misconduct by former vice president of student enrollment Luke Hartman.

In addition to the work of the steering committee, Huxman announced three other actions in the education and prevention of sexual misconduct on campus: development of a full-scale Title IX training program for faculty, staff and students; implementation of a campus climate survey; and a review of the effectiveness of EMU’s Title IX coordinator position.

The report found that EMU has policies addressing sexual discrimination, but they are in disparate places. Creation of one comprehensive institutional policy was recommended.

“This group of full-time EMU employees collectively has the requisite special expertise in all facets of education around sexual violence and discrimination,” Huxman said. “I have full confidence that this committee will prepare a report that takes us beyond compliance, one that helps us to live into our mission and our Anabaptist values of peace and reconciliation.”

New Title IX policy

By June, the committee’s six members will have proposed a comprehensive new model for EMU’s Title IX policy.

Pam Comer, director of counseling services, chaired an EMU task force that met in the fall and is a member of the steering committee.

Irene Kniss, the new Title IX coordinator, will chair the steering committee. Other members include Marcy Engle, director of human resources; Celeste Thomas, co-director of multicultural student services; Jonathan Swartz, director of residence life, student accountability and restorative justice; and Cathy Rittenhouse, nursing professor and chair of the committee that hears and adjudicates Title IX hearings.

EMU is designing a Title IX training program for the board, faculty, staff and students for next academic year. A campus climate survey will be developed and presented to the board for approval at its June meeting.

The survey will poll students, faculty and staff regarding their knowledge of racial and sexual discrimination or harassment, sexual assault and violence or any experiences with sexual or racial discrimination at EMU.


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