The living, breathing law: Title IX

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“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Above is a quote from Title IX, a law passed in 1972 that, by definition, requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.

Many people only know of Title IX by how it applies to sports. Yet athletics is only one of the 10 key areas addressed by the law.

The different areas of Title IX are: Career Education, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Sexual Harassment, Access to Higher Education, Standardized Testing, Employment and Technology.

According to Shana Meyer, Vice President for Student Affairs, in 2011, all institutions received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights called the “Dear Colleague” letter. That is when major changes started happening to Title IX. Institutions in compliance with the law began providing training for students, faculty, and staff about the awarenesses/effects of Title IX. They also discussed placing Title IX officers on campuses, having judicial cases regarding sexual assault, and learning how to respond to assault or harassment allegations.

Title IX was passed 35 years ago, and it has been the subject of over 20 proposed amendments, reviews, etc. On the Title IX website, it is referred to as a living, breathing law. Although the law seems to be necessary, there are thousands of schools across the country that are not enforcing Title IX.

Fortunately, our very own Missouri Western campus is not one of those schools. Western has been enforcing Title IX for as long as the law has been passed. However, the law is being looked at in a new way this school year.

Typically, Title IX’s focus is gender equity (i.e. having an equal amount of sports for both genders).

The focus has now changed to violence against women and sexual harassment, among other things.

Western has been trying to make students more aware of these issues in order to ensure safety and fairness on campus. In the past, a system called Green Dot was used in order to prevent violence. Training was also given during Griffon Edge in the form of an online seminar about sexual harassment. This was one of the new changes in Western’s compliance with Title IX; providing training and information about the issue of assault and violence relating to gender.

“Some of the things that we have been doing lately are making sure that our Student Code of Conduct has everything in it that it needs to in regards to harassment, sexual assault, and gender violence,” Meyer said. “Also, to make sure that students can readily find [the Code of Conduct] on the website.” Meyer, as well as other members of the Title IX committee, want to make sure that this information is readily accessible to all students.

On Friday, September 26, around 20 faculty from Western attended an advanced training seminar that discussed the history, focus, etc. of Title IX. Sally Sanders, Director of Human Resources, and Kristen Neeley, Assistant Director of New Student Programs, were among the many faculty members that attended the seminar. They each stated their claim of learning legitimate, expert information on Title IX and how to fully comply with the law.

The focus of the seminar was how to educate students, faculty, and staff on what to do if an incident were to occur and how to react to it. It was also made clear that, in the case of a situation, officials can not disclose information. All information is not in-confidence and has to be reported if it is considered sexual assault.

The faculty were taught to ask all questions possible in order to fully comprehend a situation, and to pay attention to any gray area in accordance to the letter of the law. It was also made known that “yes” is consent.

Neeley spoke about her view on the concept of the Title IX training.

“You just have to get the message out there to everyone across campus; nothing is going to be essentially confidential, that we have to investigate everything, and also, for the victims to have a voice,” Neeley said.  She also clarified that it was necessary to let victims know that it is okay to talk about their situations.

Western’s goal is to provide increased awareness of assault and violence, and to increase the reporting of situations. Procedure and training requirements are also necessary in order to educate campus officials.  The awareness concept is to ensure that more reports are made and the people are comfortable with reporting a situation.

“The only way to increase reporting is to increase awareness; to make people realize there are avenues by which to report,” Sanders said. She also claimed that if students feel as if they’re victims, they need to know the appropriate avenues and resources in order to report.

Sanders also said that the more violent aspect of Title IX is being primarily addressed, and that there is still pending legislation that will affect what changes are made on campus in accordance to the law.

Tim Kissock, Risk Manager, discussed his own views and facts based on the recent training seminar, as well as previous knowledge.

“Women are predominantly the victims of these attacks, and colleges and universities need to be adequately taking care of these issues,” Kissock said.

Gender discrimination in educational settings–both colleges and K-12–has been Title IX’s initial focus, and Kissock believes that the compliance with Title IX is very important to ensure safety on campuses–primarily our own.

“This is something that we take seriously, and I believe we’ve always taken seriously,” Meyer said. She also claimed that campus officials would work with police, and they would also investigate if any situations were to occur involving sexual assault, harassment, etc.

According to Sanders, Title IX and the Clery Act, an act involving campus crime and security policies, are “dovetailing.” Part of the permissions of Title IX allow for there to be fines if campuses don’t adequately comply with the law. There have also been fines changing within the realm of the Clery Act, as well as proposal and legislation coming through with Title IX. Proposed penalties are also changing.

“What we are trying to do is make sure we are in compliance, as well as updating policies in order to keep in line with the current interpretations of the law,” Kissock said.

On Oct. 7, Senator Claire McCaskill will be visiting Western campus. McCaskill contacted campus and set up a visit. She will be leading a forum and posing questions to the audience. She will also be detailing her understanding of us being compliant with the law, and ensuring that we know all that we should know about the benefits and goals of Title IX.

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