The update to Bowdoin’s Sexual Misconduct and Gender Based Violence Policy for this year includes changes to the role and responsibilities of the external investigator hired by the College to conduct independent inquiries into allegations of sexual misconduct, according to Benje Douglas, director of gender violence prevention and education.

The policy undergoes review each year, and changes aim to keep the policy in line with best practices in the area. According to Douglas, this change came following a look at the policies of peer institutions, the recommendations and guidelines from the Department of Education and feedback from students who have gone through the process.

Now, after the independent investigator completes his or her investigation, he or she is responsible for determining if the respondent—the individual accused of sexual misconduct—has violated the Sexual Misconduct and Gender Based Violence policy. The investigator will then pass along his or her report to the Sexual Misconduct Panel, which will determine sanctions against the respondent.

Under the previous version of the policy, the investigator would only conduct an investigation and then make a recommendation as to whether the Sexual Misconduct Panel should meet. The panel would then review the investigator’s report and determine both responsibility and sanctions.

According to Kai McGintee, the attorney at Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson recently hired by Bowdoin as an independent investigator, Bowdoin’s updated policy is in line with best practices recommended by the Office for Civil Rights for inquiry into alleged sexual misconduct and is at the forefront of national trends.

“I think Bowdoin is definitely ahead of the curve,” McGintee said. “Bowdoin is in line with best practices in terms of using a single investigator model and then having a sexual misconduct hearing board determining sanctions; that definitely is a recognized best practice.”

Neither McGintee nor her firm has any ties to Bowdoin. Prior to this summer, a member of the law firm that represents Bowdoin in other legal matters would conduct these investigations into alleged sexual misconduct. 

McGintee is a higher education attorney specializing in Title IX compliance, and began working as an independent investigator for institutions like Bowdoin about two years ago. She was hired by the College in July.

According to McGintee, it’s still common to see institutions conducting sexually misconduct investigations internally.

“There isn’t this abundance of Title IX investigators to choose from,” McGintee said. “Schools have been doing them internally and are still doing them internally...and this shift to using independent investigators is relatively new.”

The new version of the policy also expands definitions and clarifies deadlines, according to an email from Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster.