July 17, 2015

George Mason University Protects Confidentiality of Ombuds Under New Sexual Misconduct Policy

Virginia's largest, public research university has updated its Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy to reflect the recent changes in the legal and regulatory climate.  Under the new policy, GMU's Office of the Ombudsman will be explicitly confidential and not an office of notice.

Relevant portions of George Mason's University Policy Number 1202 state as follows:
III. Addressing and Preventing Sexual Misconduct
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B. Confidentiality and Reporting
The University will protect the identity of persons who report having been victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual exploitation to the fullest extent possible or required by law. However, when accessing university resources, individuals should be aware of the University’s confidentiality and mandatory reporting obligation in order to make informed choices. Some on-campus resources offer confidentiality, sharing options and advice without having an obligation to tell anyone unless the complainant wants them to. This is limited to staff in Counseling and Psychological Services, Office of the Ombudsman, Student Health Services and Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education Services (WAVES). In addition, complainants may speak on- or off-campus with members of the clergy and chaplains who will keep reports made to them confidential.
Complainants are encouraged to speak to officials of the University to make reports of incidents (e.g., Deans, Directors, Vice Presidents, Department Chairs, Faculty, University Police, Human Resources staff, Resident Director and Advisors, etc.). The University considers these people to be “responsible employees.” Notice to them is official notice to the University. Complainants have the right and can expect to have incidents of sexual misconduct taken seriously by the University when reported, and to have those incidents investigated and properly resolved through appropriate administrative procedures. Only people who need to know will be told and information will be shared only as necessary with investigators, hearing boards members, administrators, witnesses and the respondent.
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D. Campus Emergency, Medical, Counseling, Advocacy Support Resources
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Office of the Ombudsman — Provides confidential services for students to discuss any concerns and complaints, and serves as a safe space to facilitate conflict resolution. The Office of the Ombudsman does not accept notice on behalf of the University.
Fernando Caetano has been GMU's Ombuds since April 2015.  (GMU Policy.)

Related posts: Lessons From a Case of Sexual Harassment; Harvard Law Case Study Focuses on Ombuds and the 'Dear Colleague Letter'; Updated Sexual Misconduct Policy at University of North Carolina Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality; Sexual Assault Report from University of Michigan Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality; Grinnell College Affirms Confidentiality of Ombuds Office for Sexual Misconduct Matters Updated Sexual Misconduct Policy at Colorado College Protects Disclosures to Ombuds;IOA Takes a Stand on Title IX Issues.; Watch Senator Question White House Title IX Expert on Role of Campus Ombuds;Revised Sexual Misconduct Policies at MIT Continue Protection of Ombuds Updated Sexual Misconduct Policies at UC Irvine Assert Ombuds' ConfidentialityUniversity of Oregon Approves Confidentiality of Ombuds in Title IX Matters; Cornell's Ombuds Office is a Confidential Resource for Sexual Assault Matters; University of Colorado Designates Ombuds Office as Confidential Resource for Title IX Matters.

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