CPUC discusses recommendations for sexual misconduct policy changes, diversity efforts at Monday meeting| May 4, 2015
The Council of the Princeton University Community discussed changes to the University's sexual misconduct policy, the Resources Committee's rejection of the Princeton Sustainable Investment Initiative's proposal, the University's mental health programs and the Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at its meetingon Monday.
The meeting began with University vice provost for institutional diversity and equity Michelle Minter presenting proposed adjustments recommended by the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which were accepted by the council.
Under the new guidelines, certain protections and rights will be provided to complainants in all stalking cases, not just those involving intimate partners.
The policy was also modified to permit the University's Title IX Coordinator to balance several factors in determining whether to move forward with an investigation. Minter explained that this modification was made in order to consider the wishes of the complainant with respect to whether the investigation should proceed.
Minter added that under the old policy, any conflict between people who live together, including roommates, would have been adjudicated under the Sexual Misconduct policy, but under the proposed changes, this presumption would no longer be automatic.
Minter said that the University received a high response rate to the WeSpeak survey, and added that four new staff were hired by the University to administer Title IX-related work.
She noted that there appears to be a higher number of sexual misconduct cases than in the past, attributing the uptick in part to greater awareness by students of the resources available to them.
Resources Committee chair Marc Fleurbaey addressed a proposal from the Princeton Sustainable Investment Initiative, which requested that the University invest its endowment in a more sustainable manner, consistent with its environmental research and moves to reduce carbon emissions. As Fleurbaey spoke, members of the group silently stood up, bearing signs protesting the University's current investment practices.
Leigh Anne Schriever '16, the head of the PSII, explained that the proposal had four main points: that the University sign on to the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Investment, that the University sign on to the Carbon Disclosure Project, that the University create a carbon footprint of its endowment and its investments and that the University create a committee to look into making the University's environmental practices more sustainable. The proposal did not specifically call for divestment.
Fleurbaey noted that the concerns were brought to University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 and to the Princeton Investment Company, and said that the committee received letters from both Eisgruber and PRINCO in response. Eisgruber wrote that energy providers interact with the University in many ways, and that the responsibility to act on climate change issues did not rest on just a few companies, but on everyone.
"In many, if not most cases, where a need or injustice exists, decent social, economic and political systems will adjust to address it," PRINCO's memo said. The memo noted that PRINCO was already considering environmental issues when making investment decisions, pointing to $1.5 billion of investments that specifically promote environmental sustainability.
Phil Hannam GS, another member of the PSII, explained that the political systems in place were not adequately addressing the issues, so there is a need for the University to be proactive.
"The standard for divestment is a very high standard, and it has only been met in two cases," Eisgruber explained, referring to the University's move to divest from companies supporting apartheid in South Africa and violence in Darfur.
Fleurbaey explained the committee's reasons for rejecting the points of the proposal, noting that the University already does things similar to what the PSII had proposed.
Fleurbaey concluded by saying that the next resources committee would welcome continued conversation regarding the issue.
The Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion presented a set of recommendations related to student life resources, staff and coordination.
The task force recommended reassessing the effectiveness of and increasing support among existing resources for students, such as the Carl A. Fields Center, as well as making resources more available for graduate students who seek them out.
Other recommendations included hiring a senior administrator to lead diversity and inclusion efforts in campus life, and increasing both staff and monetary resources for cultural and identity-based student organizations.
The task force also recommended the availability of a confidential resource for students who have experienced bias. Minter noted that the resource would work somewhat like Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education.
University Provost David Lee GS '99 explained that recommendations in other areas, such as academics and public programming, would be included in the final report of full recommendations in mid-May.
Initial actions will take place over the summer, according to Lee.
Minter explained that while the task force could only make recommendations, Eisgruber's endorsement of the recommendations presented at the meeting meant that they would be put into place very soon. "It is possible that not every recommendation the task force makes will be taken in exactly the form that it has crafted it, but they will happen," she said.
Minter added that students would be much more involved in making important decisions, such as the selection of the senior administrator, than they had been in the past.
Minter said that in its current shape or form, the task force would end with the publication of the full report, but expects the work to continue even after the report is issued. "Not only does [continuing a task force after the report is issued] maintain accountability, it also helps us address a lot of other things that we really wanted to discuss this semester but just couldn't get to in the time frame," she said.
Minter noted that while some changes, such as instituting a diversity-related distribution requirement for undergraduates, would require more research and discussion by a separate committee, she expects many of the changes the task force recommended to be in place by the next academic year.
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Calvin Chin gave a presentation about the current state of mental health at the University, as well as the programs that CPS provides.
Chin noted that stress continues to be the biggest issue that students face on campus, and noted that the number of CPS visits has doubled over the past fifteen years. Chin attributed the increase to a greater number of staff and services offered by CPS, and to higher awareness of mental health issues among students.
The percentage of students that CPS sees is around twice the national benchmark, Chin said, explaining that University students are much more willing than peers at other institutions to seek help for their issues.
The meeting concluded with a presentation by Mizzi Gomes '16 and Carol Gu '17, who discussed the programs of the Student Health Advisory Board, and a presentation from Naimah Hakim '16 and Amalya Megerman '16, co-chairs of the Undergraduate Student Government Mental Health Initiative Board.
Hakim and Megerman discussed changes in programming and issues that the MHIB faced. In particular, they noted that the fall referendum calling for the University to publish detailed policies regarding leaves of absence was brought to administrators after receiving support from 95 percent of voters, and they criticized the University for its disappointing response to the death of Audrey Dantzlerward '16 in January.
The meeting took place at4:30 p.m.in Friend 101.