When Adrian Autry ’94 led the Syracuse University men’s basketball team into action against the University of New Hampshire to open the 2023-24 season, there were many familiar faces in the stands inside the JMA Wireless Dome cheering on the…
Q&A With Title IX Case Coordinator: What to Know About Support, Resources for Students Impacted by Sexual and Relationship Violence
In her role with the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services (EOIRS), Gina Kelepurovski is often the first person to reach out to students who have been impacted by sexual misconduct or relationship violence once a report is received by her office.
Kelepurovski, Equal Employment Opportunity and Title IX case coordinator, listens to students and provides them with information on resources, supportive measures and reporting options to let them decide whatever path is right for them.
“Our process is very student driven, so if a student doesn’t want to take any action, that’s fine too,” Kelepurovski L’01 says. “I’m here to listen; I tell them, ‘Let me connect you to resources. Let me tell you about the people on campus who are here to help.’”
EOIRS and other such campus resources as the Barnes Center at The Arch, Department of Public Safety (DPS) and case managers in Student Outreach and Retention, and off-campus resource Vera House, are all available to students seeking help.
In her conversations with students, one of the most important messages Kelepurovski hopes to convey to a student is that the University cares for them.
“We work in this office because we care about students,” says Kelepurovski, who graduated from the College of Law and is a labor and employment attorney.
In this Q&A, Kelepurovski discusses what students who have been impacted by sexual misconduct or relationship violence can expect if they’d like to share their situation with the University.
Q: How do students contact your office if they have been impacted by sexual misconduct or relationship violence?
There are also a couple of different forms, on the DPS and Stop Bias websites, where information can be filled out, and the information is forwarded to us. Other offices also refer students to us. There is also contact information available on the Sexual and Relationship Violence Resources website.
Sometimes a student may tell a professor or a staff member and, with the University’s “responsible employee” policy, any employee that becomes aware of an incident having to do with Title IX has to tell our office, unless the employee is a confidential resource, such as with the counselors or medical staff at the Barnes Center or a Hendricks Chapel chaplain.
Q: What are the first steps once a student reaches out to your office?
A: Once I learn of the student’s name, I reach out to the student by email letting them know that I’d like to speak with them, and I include information about their rights and the resources available to them. We can talk by phone or meet by Zoom or in person at the EOIRS offices in Steele Hall.
I ask them if they can share what has happened to them, and I tell them all of the supportive measures that are available to them on campus, such as referring them to the case managers in Student Outreach and Retention, who can help with academic accommodations if the student is struggling academically or has missed classes due to their situation. I also tell them about the resources available to them through our office, such as a no-contact order, their protection under the University’s no-retaliation policy and the complaint process available to them if they want to pursue a formal complaint.
Q: Can a reporting student come in with a friend?
A: Students can absolutely have someone with them in all our meetings. It could be a friend, a case manager from Student Outreach and Retention, a parent or whomever they choose.
Q: Can a student contact your office anonymously?
A: Yes, students can contact our office anonymously and we can help connect them to resources. However, anonymous reporting can make it more difficult for the University to address the reported behavior if that’s a path a student wants.
Sometimes students don’t give their name and that’s OK, but they might want to know about resources. I can talk to a student by phone to make sure they at least know the support resources available to them on campus. I try my best to be as empathetic and supportive as I can.
I do take the information from a student’s situation, and it goes into our case management system, so that we have the information documented and can track it.
Although the University will always attempt to honor the wishes of a reporting student in terms of what process occurs, there are certain reports that might require the University to move forward with a formal complaint even if a student does not file a formal complaint. The Title IX coordinator weighs multiple factors listed in the policy to determine whether the institution must proceed even without the participation of the reporting or impacted student. This is rare, but does occur, for example, where the facts suggest there is an ongoing threat to the campus community.
Q: If a student doesn’t share anything in your initial meeting, can they come back to discuss what happened and move forward?
A: Absolutely, I always tell students “If you have questions, if you have more to talk about or if you think that I didn’t hear everything, contact me and I will be happy to meet with you as many times as you need to talk about process.”
We want to give students agency to move forward at their own pace when they are ready.
Q: Can supportive measures, such as a no-contact order, only happen if students go through the complaint process?
A: The supportive measures are available to students whether or not they engage in any complaint process at all. Sometimes they may just want personal or academic support working with case managers in Student Outreach and Retention, or safety planning through DPS.
There are things that we can do, but we can’t help them if we don’t know that something has happened.
Q: What sort of legal aid do students have access to?
A: If a student is going through the formal process with our office and they don’t have legal support for a scheduled hearing, a legal advisor is provided to them by the University at no cost to the student. Vera House can also provide students with information about options for legal support.
Q: What are some misconceptions that students might have about your office and the process?
A: The first is that I think a lot of students don’t know what our office is and that it’s here for them. A lot of them tell me, “I’m so glad you reached out. I didn’t know about the office.”
Also, they may not know there are options for taking action, including whether or not to file a complaint.
And many students think, “Well, if I report it, nothing is going to happen.” If a student does want to file a formal complaint through our office, there is an investigation. The investigator talks to everyone involved and gathers all the evidence, and then we bring it to Community Standards. Community Standards determines whether disciplinary action is appropriate.
Q: What is the most important thing that you want students to take away from your first outreach?
A: I want them to know that we want their experience at Syracuse University to be the very best experience that they have in their life. We want them to feel like it’s home, and when these things happen and they don’t feel safe on campus, we want them to know there are resources and people on campus who are there for them and can help them feel safe.
Q: Is there anything else you might want to share about your meetings that students might find helpful?
A: I want students to know there’s nothing to be nervous about coming here to meet with me. There is nothing that a student can tell me that’s going to upset me or shock me. Just come in. We’ll have a conversation, and I’ll help you in any way I can.
For confidential resources, students can contact the Sexual and Relationship Violence Response Team at the Barnes Center, available 24/7 by calling 315.443.8000, or Vera House at 315.468.3260.