By Jose Servin
College faculty and classified staff are now mandated by a federal law to report sexual misconduct committed against their students.
Educators are now responsible for reporting incidents of sexual violence that they learn about, or become aware of, as required by the Violence Against Women Act.
Santa Ana College started training professors under the leadership of the Vice President of Student Affairs, Sara Lundquist, the district’s Title IX liaison. They are also preparing to train classified staff and release a video for student awareness later in the semester.
“We want to have staff and faculty understand what it means to be a mandatory reporter, and we want to protect the students,” said Lilia Tanakeyowma, SAC dean of student affairs.
The law states that if a student discloses cases of sexual abuse, professors have to alert the student before that the information must be reported.
If the student agrees, or the professor is unable to warn them, a report, which can be filled out online, must be sent to John Didion, the Title IX coordinator for the district. Didion then decides the next course of action after speaking with the student and taking their opinion into account.
If the student does not agree but would like to speak with someone, they can talk to any of the six full time psychologists in the health center, who are exempt from the law.
When the health center is closed, students are advised to visit the SAC security office, where a private office is available with confidential hotlines for those who wish not to disclose their situation, Dr. Lundquist said.
“I understand why they are doing it, I get it. I just don’t think that as a school we have been trained sufficiently enough,” said Lance Lockwood, the department chair for Communication Studies and a Safe Space ally.
Lockwood is referring to the gray area undefined by the law. For example, what happens when a student has already dealt with a case of sexual abuse but just brings it up in class, Lockwood said. Dr. Lundquist and her team are working on interpreting VAWA regarding specific circumstances.
Professors only received a one-week training session where they watched a video, and were asked to discuss the law within their departments.
VAWA is an expansion of the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to publish an annual safety report every Oct. 1, and keep a log of crimes. Despite the name, the bill applies to all genders.
Underscoring VAWA is the so-called yes means yes bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, that defines mutual consent, which cannot be given if someone is asleep or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
There have been five forcible sex offenses reported at Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College since 2011.
“I think as a nation it’s a step forward into bringing safer campuses for many women,” said sophomore Deborah Leopo.