The living, breathing law: Title IX

"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.

Shots fired during sorority fundraiser

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A charity fundraiser went awry four months ago for a Missouri Western organization, and they are still experiencing the ramifications.DSC_9164

The Sigma Nu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority has been suspended for six months by both the national chapter and Missouri Western after an event involving gunfire and damage to a historic painting in St. Joseph.

According to the St. Joseph Police Department case report, officers were summoned to the scene when a fight broke out. Upon arrival, the officer heard gunshots and saw many of the subjects running from the front of the building.

The report includes eyewitness accounts of the event. Witness Erica Wilhite described the shooter as a black male with a short Afro hairstyle, 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-7, weighing roughly 180 pounds.

In the report, Wilhite said she did not know the man, but knew he was local. She said she saw the shooter arguing with Western football players before shots were fired. She also identified the gun as a semi-automatic.

Two-year Delta Sigma Theta President Shelby Bratton said she did not know the man who was shooting at the event.

“I don’t even think he was a student,” she said.

Bratton said that the event at the Wyeth-Tootle mansion was a non-alcoholic fundraiser for one of the chapter’s community service projects.

Although the police report stated that there were approximately 50 subjects at the scene, Bratton said there were many more guests than that, and by the time the police arrived, many of the guests were already gone.

Bratton said the sorority advertised the party on their social media pages, so anyone who saw the posts could come.

Bratton also said they did have paid security at the event. The group hired individuals on campus who worked security at events before.

Bratton said there was a painting damaged at the event, and the sorority is in the process of raising money to pay back the mansion.

Along with losing their $200 security deposit, the sorority made their first payment back to the mansion in December. The group paid $300 with the promise that they would have the rest of the bill, which is upwards of $3,000, paid in full before May 31.

Jackie Lewin, executive director of the St. Joseph Museums, said that this event was the first time they had allowed the Wyeth-Tootle mansion to be rented by a sorority or fraternity.

“All sororities in general won’t be using our facilities,” she said. “Looking back on it, I think it’s probably not a good idea for us to do that. I think no matter what sorority or fraternity it is, probably some aspect of it may go wrong.”

Lewin said a painting of Joseph Robidoux had a hole punched through it.  She explained that she thought the group of guests at the mansion were outside, and when they heard the gunfire, ran back inside trying to escape the shots. She thought the rush was when the damage occurred.

“We had taken it down and it was leaning up against a wall area, so they hit into it,” Lewin said.

Lewin said the sorority told the museum staff that they would have event insurance before the date of the event. The use of the mansion was contingent on the sorority having the insurance.

Bratton said that DST did purchase liability insurance, but it did not cover the damage caused at the event.

Lewin and the rest of the museum staff are eager for the bill to be paid.

“We just want to collect our money because we are sitting with the painting, waiting to get it repaired,” Lewin said.

The event was a fundraiser party for the Edison Elementary School classroom that the sorority adopted. The DST women raised money for Christmas gifts for the students in the classroom and participate in events with the students throughout the year. The sorority focuses on community service as one of its top priorities.

The sorority raised funds at the party by invoking a cover charge to all guests. The price was $5 for females and $7 males until 11 p.m., when prices changed to $7 and $10, respectively.

However, after the damage incurred at the event, the plans for the money raised was altered.

“We actually didn’t get to donate to them [Edison], because we are dealing with other financial issues,” Bratton said.

The Wyeth-Tootle Mansion, located at the corner of Eleventh and Charles Streets, was built around the turn of the century. The mansion’s 43 rooms are filled with hand-painted ceilings and imported stained glass.

The painting of Robidoux that was damaged during the event is one of many portraits of prestigious citizens of the city in the 1900s.

Since DST is suspended from campus, they can only have events under their name if Isaiah Collier, assistant dean of student development, approves them. This process makes fundraising to repay the mansion more difficult.

A fundraiser was held at Belt Bowl on Feb. 25, where donations were accepted to repair the mansion.

Bratton said that a team will be competing in the step show in April, and, if they win, the money would go toward paying the bill. She said the six members of the sorority are trying to be creative and proactive and continuously come up with new ideas to raise funds.

Bratton said the sorority is also taking donations.

JAYC Foundation to participate in Two Day Child Abuse Conference

Child abuse will be the topic of a two-day conference being held April 17th and 18th at Missouri Western. Participants will have an opportunity to listen and learn from experts. The conference is being held in the Fulkerson Center. It is sponsored by the Regional Law Enforcement Academy, Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, Social Work, Department of Nursing and Northwest Missouri Child Advocacy Center. Breakout sessions will be held in classrooms both days. Everyone must preregister. The forms are available online at wi.missouriwestern.edu/conference. Kip Wilson, associate professor of CJLS,  says that this is their first attempt to put together so many organizations into one learning conference. “Sandy Hook was a terrible shock, but people forget that weekly approximately that many children get killed,” Wilson stated. “Often by parents who are their caretakers.” Dr. Gretchen Quenstedt-Moe, assistant professor of Nursing, stresses the value of this conference. Other similar ones charge $300.00. The registration fee for this conference is $80.00.  If you are a field instructor or MWSU adjunct instructor, it is $20.00. Students may attend for free. She stresses that everyone must preregister because there is a limit to class size for each session. “We are thrilled to death to have this opportunity, especially for our pediatric nurses. They will have a better understanding of how the system works,” Quenset-Moe, said. “It’s about taking responsibility in the community.” It will be particularly interesting to people involved in law enforcement, social services, healthcare and education. Wilson says it is an opportunity for students and professionals to listen to a wide range of speakers who work to prevent child abuse every day and to focus on the tragedy of abuse. “We have offered a yearly conference to give back or say ‘Thank You’ to the community for everything they do for our students,” Pam Clary, instructor  of PSS,  said. “This is the first time we are joining many disciplines to host a conference.” Learning the signs of an abuser is one aspect that can be gained from the conference. One of the 10 presentations on Wednesday will be by Catherine Vannier, Family Violence Resource Prosecutor with the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services. It will cover the signs and symptoms of coercive control and present a link between child abuse, domestic violence and animal abuse. Wilson says an informational video showing signs of abuse can also be viewed at http://atsweb.uthscsa.edu/webdev/Mckee/Anderst/MIC.html. “The conference will raise the level of awareness for everyone so that we can advocate for our children,” Dr. Mary Jo Gay, assistant professor of Nursing, said. “This conference is interdisciplinary and will be informational and educational to all students.” Of unique interest to participants will be the special guests, Terry Probyn, Dr. Rebecca Bailey and Jane Dickel, LCSW. They will be conducting a workshop presented by The JAYC Foundation. The foundation was formed by former kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard. Their topic will be on reacquainting law enforcement officers and employees with their culture and mission. This workshop will be the last event of the conference from 1-4pm on Thursday. “I plan to attend and so do many of my fraternity brothers from Phi Sigma Kappa,” senior criminal justice major Matthew Morris said. Corporal John Christianson, Highway Patrol Troop H officer and Adjunct Criminal Justice Instructor, says that he has assisted other patrolmen in responding to calls that involved abuse. He keeps a watchful eye during all shifts for signs that indicate a hotline call to DFS is needed to investigate the situation. “If we save one child, then it is worth it,” Christianson said. “This is a good conference because it pulls from many disciplines and provides a voice for victims that don’t have a voice.”

‘Bullies with guns’

Campus Police cars sit out side Blum. The officers use the cars to patrol Downs drive regularly. They officers also patrol inside buildings.

Campus Police criticized over arrest

Rodney Roberts, a mentor to Missouri Western underclassmen for the past year, doesn’t think that campus is safe for his students anymore.

[caption id="attachment_17590" align="alignleft" width="150"]Campus Police cars sit out side Blum. The officers use the cars to patrol Downs drive regularly. They officers also patrol inside buildings. Campus Police cars sit out side Blum. The officers use the cars to patrol Downs drive regularly. They officers also patrol inside buildings.[/caption]

After a Feb. 27 altercation between two officers and former Men’s basketball player Lavonte Douglas, students have expressed their concerns with the Police Department’s relations with students.

Editorial: Stand Up for Lavonte

Roberts, a Founder and the President of the Gentlemen of Color Association, a mentoring program for  African-American underclassmen, thinks that Douglas’ situation was poorly handled by the officers on call.

“One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that students feel endangered by officers on campus,” Roberts said.

Roberts also thinks that students can’t trust officers after the incident involving Douglas. He said that some girls who witnessed the event were crying because they felt so unsafe.

“I can’t stress enough that there is no reason that the students of this school should feel unsafe, threatened or just plain out in fear of our public safety officers,” Roberts said. “Who feels safe around you? You’re not real public safety, you’re bullies. You’re bullies with guns. You’re legal bullies.”

At the time of the incident, Douglas was approached in the food court by Corporal Robert Bidding and Officer Travis Fulton.

Douglas said that he felt threatened by Bidding and Fulton when they approached him in the food court. When Douglas refused to show them his Western ID card, Douglas said they tried to apprehend him. He ran up stairs to the Student Affairs office.

“I feel like some of Lavonte's actions, like running up to the Student Affairs office, at no point should a student feel like that’s his only option that he needs to run through a building for his safety to another office. If we employ these officers to protect us, then why are we so scared of them?”

Although Roberts said he has never had any problems with either officer involved in the incident, he said he’s seen Fulton become rude and aggressive with other students.

Roberts said that complaints he’s heard from the freshmen he mentors is that Fulton is “aggressive, unfair, racist, stereotypes them and doesn’t really give them a fair shot.”

Roberts said that Fulton has never acted this way towards him, but he has seen Fulton treat other students unfairly. Roberts said he has had problems with Officer Nick Scheidegger.

“I have a history with Officer Scheidegger, the guy legitimately hates me, like legitimately hates me.” Roberts said. “Other police officers have actually told me like, ‘Stay out of his way, he seems to really not like you.’ There should be no reason for that.”

Tobias Pointer, the current president of the Black Student Union, believes there is a gap between officers and minorities on campus.

“As usual it’s always a lack of communication with higher power and minorities at Missouri Western State University,” Pointer said. “I believe the issue could have been solved in a much better way than it was.”

Two years ago, former BSU President Leah Hayes started a petition asking Western’s officers to undergo diversity training. Pointer believes this is something that officers would still benefit from.

“I feel diversity training would definitely help them deal with students that they feel are hostile or aggressive without having to go through the same route they did with Lavonte,” Pointer said.

University President Robert Vartabedian said that to his knowledge, the officers do undergo diversity training, but he is aware of a single issue with Fulton.

“I guess it depends on how you define problems,” Vartabedian said. “I think there was at least one other issue that was brought up but we investigated it and we investigated it to our satisfaction so I don’t think we would necessarily categorize it as a problem, but there was an issue we needed to deal with previously.”

Vartabedian wasn’t aware of any issues with other officers. Chief of Police Jon Kelley was unavailable for comment.

Student Government Association President Jacob Scott believes that Western’s police force is dedicated to protecting students.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a problem but it’s an ongoing educational experience,” Scott said. “There’s always a more and more diverse population on campus, people coming from different backgrounds and we operate differently we have a different understanding of authority and it’s important that we recognize our differences and come up with a method in which we handle these situations.”

Scott hopes that the investigation into the Feb. 27 incident is fair and said that SGA leaders could be a resource for Douglas in navigating the student handbook.

Douglas’s formal hearing with Western administration took place Wednesday at 3 p.m. The result of that hearing was not available at press time.

Professors voice their concerns over guns in schools

Discussions about a Missouri House Bill have left university faculty with concerns. HB 70 would give faculty the right to conceal and carry guns on campus during school hours. Western's faculty have voiced their opinion on whether they agree with the message the bill is trying to portray. Dr. Robert Vartabedian, president of Missouri Western and Dr. Robert Bergland, faculty senate president both stand in opposition of HB 70. Bergland said he personally wouldn’t like to see anyone carry firearms on campus outside of campus security. “There are more chances of things going wrong, than there would be a chance of guns serving as a deterrent,” Bergland said. Faculty have been portrayed as educated, intelligent individuals who are stable enough to handle guns on campus said Representative Mike Kelley, R-Lamar. He said he knows of professors who hide the fact that they conceal and carry on school grounds illegally. The bill would relieve them of hiding the guns. Dr. David Tushaus, professor of legal studies, said he stands in opposition of HB 70. He said he doesn’t know of any legitimate research that supports allowing guns to be carried by teachers while in school. “In fact, more research is needed on effective ways to reduce violence,” Tushaus said. “I am not convinced more guns make us safer.” In recent years, most shootings that have occurred in the United States are in gun-free zones which happen to be schools. Dr. Steven Greiert, chairman of the history department said he supports the bill and believes professors with proper training and responsibility should be given the chance to conceal and carry on campus. “Let’s face it, a lot of people doing these school shootings are mentally ill,” Greiert said. “We can’t prevent everything that happens in the world, but if we have trained people then they should be allowed to carry.” The faculty members who were interviewed were in agreement that they don’t see the need for guns on campus. Dr. Edwin Taylor, assistant professor of political science said as a faculty member he also doesn’t support the bill. He said he doesn’t own a gun and doesn’t have any intentions on buying one if the bill passes. “Arming faculty members would do little to improve the safety of the campus community and would only increase the probability of gun related accidents,” Taylor said. The Faculty Senate hasn’t met with Vartabedian to discuss the matter of allowing guns on campus during business hours. Bergland said that if the bill progresses out of committee, then he thinks there would a vote from the faculty to either support or oppose the bill.