SE Missouri State updates student code of conduct to tackle sexual assault

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A new school year and a new way Southeast Missouri State is looking at sexual assault cases.

Southeast Missouri State University is updating their Student Code of Conduct by taking a stronger stance on sexual violence.

According to Doctor Debbie Below, Southeast's Dean of Students, the major changes include:

  1. An updated definition of disorderly conduct.
  2. An updated definition of sexual violence.
  3. The fine for violating the code of conduct involving assault is raised from $50 to $200.
  4. If a student leaves SEMO, the school will continue to investigate and work on the case until it is resolved - even in the student's absence.
  5. An update to reporting language. A complainant is now referred to as a reporting party, and the person being accused is now referred to as the responding party.
  6. An education program about sexual assault is now required for incoming students.

Below said the changes are something they've been working on for a while.

"Throughout last year as we worked through a number of sexual assault cases we saw opportunities to improve the code, and a review process started really early last fall. We got the committee together over the winter break. There were a number of things we wanted to spend time on, but we weren't able to finish it over the winter break, and so we picked it back up again this summer, and we were able to make those changes, and able to get everything in place as the students arrived back this fall semester," Dr. Below said.

Dr. Below also said that a lot of these changes came from student interest and involvement on the topic.

"We have seen an increase in the number of sexual assault cases reported as a result of the education, and the students willingness to engage a dialogue around the topic of sexual assault. We couldn't be more proud of our students stepping up in the way that they have, and the students have been integral to this process. They've given us feedback on the process, and we in turn, wanted to respond to that, and put a procedure in place that worked for everyone," Below said.

For more information on Southeast's policies and procedures involving sexual assault, you can visit their website for their "It's On Us" campaign.

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