Staff Spotlight: Rabia Khan Harvey

Published on Apr 11, 2017

By Neal Steichen

Since 2002, April has been nationally celebrated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Columbia College Chicago is dedicated to creating a safe and accepting environment for all students, and leading that endeavor is Rabia Khan Harvey, along with Janely Rivera in the entire Office of Equity Issues.

Khan Harvey has over 16 years of professional experience in Student Affairs, primarily in Housing and Residence Life. Prior to Columbia, she served as the Assistant Dean of Students/Deputy Title IX Coordinator for four years at Loyola University Chicago. Khan Harvey became the of Director of Equity Issues and Title IX Coordinator for Columbia this past October, overseeing the College’s response to all student sexual misconduct reports. She also coordinates Title IX training for all faculty and staff who have a duty to notify her office of known incidents of student sexual misconduct. In addition to her new role on campus at Columbia, Khan Harvey also serves as a national educator and consultant to colleges and universities by helping them improve their policies, procedures and internal investigations as it relates to Title IX. 

Rabia Khan Harvey spoke with us to help spread the word about what Columbia is doing to fight sexual assault and raise awareness around campus. 

For readers who may not know, what are Title IX and SAAM all about?
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex and gender discrimination at federally funded institutions such as Columbia College Chicago. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regulates institutions to ensure that we are following our own policies and procedures as it relates to our anti-discrimination and student sexual misconduct policies. Commonly known forms of discrimination include sexual harassment, sexual assault, or athletic compliance, which ensures that male and female sports teams have equitable resources. Not commonly known forms of sex discrimination, which are covered under Title IX and therefore are also covered in our student sexual misconduct policy, include dating/domestic violence, stalking, sexual exploitation, and any form of gender or sex discrimination against a minority gender on campus. 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is meant to be an educational and awareness month to help students become more knowledgeable about issues related to sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. The programs hosted by SAAM are designed to engage our Columbia students in an appealing, creative way that ignite conversations about the role consent plays in healthy sexual activity between partners. 

What steps is Columbia taking to create/maintain resources on campus and to protect students?
The most important and visual commitment to creating and maintaining resources on campus while protecting students is the establishment of our new office, known as the Office of Equity Issues—located at 623 S. Wabash, room 315—and hiring two full-time professionals to lead campus efforts related to this office’s purpose! I would invite students to stop by and visit not only myself, but also our Title IX Deputy Coordinator/Investigator, Janely Rivera, anytime they’re in the area.

The other resource that Columbia provides our students is the presentation of a comprehensive policy, which could be found by visiting www.colum.edu/sexualassault. This policy provides survivors of sexual misconduct, detailed resources, and reporting options including empowering them with the option to utilize our formal grievance procedures in the event that the accused is another Columbia student.

As we are a newer office, we are currently in the process of educating as many faculty and staff about their duty to notify our office of known incidents of sexual misconduct as a means to best assist our students in their time of need. Interim measures, resources, and reporting options will be provided to the student if our office contacts them as a means to provide ongoing care and assistance so that each student can persist and personally succeed while enrolled at Columbia.

Finally, it is important to note that Columbia, like most institutions of higher education, does not tolerate any form of discrimination including sex and gender discrimination. We are here to create a welcoming, comfortable, and safe environment for all students and we can do that if students trust that we are there to help them. 

What do you feel is the foremost concern for Columbia in this regard? In other words, what is the first goal on the list? 
The first goal on my list as the Title IX Coordinator is to educate. I hope to equip faculty and staff with the knowledge, skills, and tools that they’ll need to foster a transparent reporting culture on this campus. By mid-April, the entire Division of Student Affairs will understand their role as responsible employees who have a duty to report these matters to our office. Additionally, I’ve already selected and trained 16 hearing officers who have volunteered to assist our office with resolving these matters should a student wish to utilize the formal grievance procedure. Our full-time investigator, Janely Rivera, will oversee all student sexual misconduct investigations and lead the student-facing educational efforts with all student-leaders and incoming first-year students at summer orientation. We have a full curriculum planned for our Columbia community and it is my hope that these educational efforts will not only increase reporting but will also empower our students to utilize our services that exist for them.

What can students do if they are targeted, witness, or are concerned about sexual assault?
Students have reporting options. They can talk to any trusted faculty or full-time staff member (including two designated confidential staff members: Cordelia Miller-Muhammad, Director of Counseling Services, and Orterio Villa, Coordinator in Residence Life) to report an incident, they can come directly to our office, or email me at rkhanharvey@colum.edu. Within 12 hours, it is my duty to ensure that the reporter has both on and off-campus resources as well as reporting options supplied to them. I will, as a courtesy, always request a meeting to answer their questions and to assess the situation better in person. Students may also choose to report anonymously by submitting a report at www.colum.ethicspoint.com.

What pitfalls surround the topic of sexual assault and creating a supportive environment for Columbia students? 
One major pitfall is student complacency or ignoring the fact that sexual assault poses a real threat on college campuses. Students must educate themselves as much as possible about understanding consent, respecting other people’s decisions about sexual activity, and never taking advantage of someone who is unable to give consent (due to incapacity). Sexual assault can be combatted by teaching people not to rape instead of only sending messages to potential victims that they’re responsible for not being sexually assaulted. Bystander intervention is also a research-based proven method to help potential victims of sexual assault and students can easily learn what it means to step in as a bystander. We hope, in the near future, to educate our students about bystander intervention techniques. If students are interested in helping plan programmatic events for the new academic year, 2017-2018, please contact us at titleix@colum.edu or email me directly at rkhanharvey@colum.edu.

Anyone who would like to know more about SAAM events or have questions about sexual assault can go to www.colum.edu/sexualassault.

Read Columbia College Chicago’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy.

If students are interested in joining the committee who plans these events, they should contact Kristen Bauer at kbauer@colum.edu and Matt Test at mtest@colum.edu who serve as the co-chairs of the Sexual Assault Awareness Education Committee (SAAEC).