During the Title IX Community meeting, Michael Dunn, Director of Title IX Compliance and Training/Title IX Coordinator, and Helen Ann Lawless, Title IX Investigator/Prevention Specialist, reviewed the data related to the Fall 2019 reports they received. They began by talking about reports they received in the fall and the breakdown of what the reports were. Out of the 64 reports filed, only 48 were Title IX specific reports. The other 14 reports were non-Title IX reports such as roommate disputes or bullying that do not fall under Title IX policy.
Title IX is the law specific to discrimination based on sex, but when people come to their office they help pass them on to the proper channels. Dunn explained that their goal is “all about putting light on topics that are usually pretty taboo, that are stigmatized in our society. We want students on campus to know that they can come forward and report this information and they will be treated with dignity and sensitivity and respect and that we can help them get the resources and assistance that they need.”
Title IX reports have generally decreased since previous years, but there is not enough information to make a notable statement as to what that means. There was a clear trend of more recorded reports during the Fall semester than the Spring semester. When asked by another student as to why this would be, Lawless explained what is known as “The Red Zone,” which is the first six to eight weeks of the fall semester in which students are at the highest risk for sexual assault, especially First Years. When new students first come to college, they are usually starting from the ground and looking for social circles, and manipulative people look to exploit that.
There is also an increase in social events and parties that bring big groups of people together. In fact, reports from HawktoberFest and Hallowgreens make up around 30% of all Fall Reports. Dunn spoke up, “The data is shocking. It’s a problem and a challenge for our entire campus. I don’t think anyone on campus would say the parties are worth it, that this is an acceptable price to pay.” He emphasizes that he wants to respect people’s privacy, but that students need to know that the reports from Halloweekends are not just low-level reports. Title IX is working on extra preventative measures and hopes to continue the conversation on how to address the problem and figure out how to have a positive healthy environment where students are able to interact with one another in a safe way.
A new policy change means that Title IX will be able to hold people’s degrees until the investigation is finished. The student may still be able to walk at graduation, but the degree will be withheld in case action will need to be taken later in the year. In terms of prevention, Title IX will be continuing with its programs, A Call To Men, Active Bystander, and Costume Is Not Consent. They will continue to do interactive campaigns such as the healthy relationship chain that lined the staircase to the Great Room and interviewing students on how they feel about different topics within Title IX and placing their sound bites in posters around campus. They also emphasize how important it is for students to complete the Climate Survey. It’s the best way to get informative and useful data, and the response rate has decreased since last year.
The two most common Title IX issues fall under dating violence and sexual harassment. Fall 2019 is the first time where dating violence reports have overtaken those of sexual assault. Lawless theorizes that this could be due to a higher amount of information being shared, as well as awareness and prevention programs, which help people to identify the signs of domestic violence and acquaint them with resources to seek help.
Out of the sexual harassment reports from Fall 2019, seven were nonconsensual contact, four were nonconsensual intercourse and six were sexual assault unknown. Sexual assault unknown is someone who comes forward and explains that something happened to them that they don’t want to talk about, but they still want access to resources. Some other categories the reports fell into were retaliation, stalking, and sexual exploitation. Anyone who comes into the office is informed that retaliation is prohibited. They should not receive any negative repercussions for filing a report. No one should change their grades, impact their social sphere, create rumors, threats or intimidations. All of these are taken very seriously because everyone should feel completely safe in coming forward with a report. When asked about policy language and whether or not these were blanket categories, Dunn explained, “All of these things are defined in the policy,” each category has a definition and examples of what is included within it.
The most common cases fall under the category “as far as they can go.” It is essentially when a report has been filed and the student decides not to follow up with the office. The office respects that the student is making a choice for themselves, and will leave it alone after reaching out without a response. It also includes anyone that they do not have authority over, including people who are not students or staff.
Other cases fall under the category of informal resolutions, which is when students do not want a formal investigation and just want the behavior to stop. In these situations, Title IX will bring in the accused and tell them to stop, remind them of the policies, put in place a no-contact order, and let them go.
Another category is an honor request for confidentiality, which is when someone comes forward to share what is happening, but asks that the college not take action. The only time when a request for confidentiality or an informal resolution doesn’t end after the initial report is when the accused has had reports filed against them. Of course, this does not mean that the student will be forced to take part in the investigation. Instead they will be informed and, while most choose to come forward, there are some who choose to not go further. Dunn affirmed, “What I try to really live by is no surprises. I want people to know what they can expect, what’s happening when, trying to keep people informed and that the process is as sensitive as it is and as transparent as it can be.” They urge students to reach out with any questions or ideas on how to make the campus a healthier community. More information on Title IX events, contact information, and policies is available on their website and on Inside SMCM.