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Western Cracks Down on Sexual Harassment

In compliance with upcoming federal changes to Title IX, the university has implemented new policies regarding discrimination.

Title IX discrimination refers to sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, gender identity, and failure to conform to stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity.

Legislation Today

Title IX refers to a section of the federal Educations Amendments of 1972, which states (in part) that:

“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.”

Except for a renaming of the bill to Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, the wording of Title IX has not changed since its creation.

Title IX currently has normally been used in cases of gender equality in sports and other state-sanctioned activities.

However, activity in Congress has begun to question whether Title IX can be expanded to regulate any cases of sexual misconduct are handled on college campuses.

Upcoming Federal Mandates

A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri would strengthen existing Title IX language to include all cases of sexual misconduct on campuses.

Known as S.590 and H.R.1310, informally known as Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the legislation would:

– Require schools to survey students about sexual misconduct, and publish those results
– Mandate minimum levels of training for school staff
– Prevent athletic departments from handling complaints about athletes
– Create financial penalties for school non-compliance

Though the legislation is gaining traction in Congress, the bill is not yet federal law. Despite this, the university has implemented multiple policy changes in response to McCaskill’s efforts.

Specific Policy Changes

First, the university has begun the hiring process for a Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator.

“We are searching for a new Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator,” said Shana Meyer, vice president of student affairs. “It’s a nation-wide search and we’re really looking for someone to fill that spot and concentrate on our Title IX efforts.”

Three candidates for the position will be on campus within the following two weeks.

Second, Western employees are now mandatory reporters. If a student approaches a faculty or staff member regarding a case of sexual misconduct, the employee must report it to the Title IX coordinator.

“With the exception of the counseling center, there is no confidentiality [in cases of Title IX discrimination],” said Edwin Taylor, assistant professor of political science. “So, if someone comes to us and says, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something that happened at this party off campus, but you’ve got to keep it private,” we have to start off with, “I have to report it.”

Though the university must launch an investigation into reports of sexual misconduct, for the time being, students still maintain the final say as to whether charges are to be pressed.

“The university has to investigate any cases, but if a student doesn’t want an investigation to continue, they maintain autonomy over that decision,” Executive Vice President of SGA Brad Stanton said.

Third, students and staff are required to complete online Title IX training. Though Western staff and student employees have already received the information to complete the online course, students have not been given access to the course.

However, once students receive the email information regarding the online training, it must be completed within 30 days.

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