In the higher-ed world, the term “Title IX,” has always been synonymous with equality on the playing field. In the old days, the only Title IX question many colleges and universities considered was the number of scholarship opportunities for men and women athletes. If the number was equal, then institutions were thought to be compliant. Today, in the increasingly complex cultural landscape of U.S. college campuses, Title IX has expanded beyond equality to also address safety and accountability.
According to KnowYourTitleIX.com:
Title IX prohibits any type of sex-based discrimination in education. “It addresses discrimination against pregnant and parenting students and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. It also addresses sexual harassment, gender- or sex-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence.
Focused on Raising Awareness and Publicizing Resources
For the past several years, administrators and student leaders at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga., have been hard at work addressing the varied issues related to Title IX. Efforts last year focused on raising awareness and publicizing resources. This year, online training was provided for students at MyStudentBody.com and for faculty and staff on In2vate; the student handbook was revised to include a nondiscrimination notice; grievance/code of conduct procedures have been updated; and a Title IX Intervention Committee of faculty and staff has been formed and trained.
According to Dr. Roger Lee, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, the Intervention Committee has several critical responsibilities. “The overall role is to provide oversight in making our campus a safer environment to live and learn and also to guide our commitment to meeting the requirements of the Title IX federal mandate,” Lee said. “This committee has been hard at work, especially in the last few months, presenting Title IX strategies/updates/initiatives to the University Board of Trustees, participating in a state-wide ‘Commitment to Act’ statement through GICA/Legislators and learning Title IX compliance in state-wide training opportunities.”
On March 7, 2013, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization was signed into law, which required colleges and universities to adopt new policies and procedures pertaining to the reporting, discipline procedures, victims’ rights and prevention programs. The Reinhardt Student Government, in collaboration with the committee, took an active role in seeking to eliminate sexual violence on campus through the changing of student policy and providing prevention resources. This includes the primary prevention tool used for all incoming new students called MyStudentBody—an online tool that helps students tackle and reduce their risk of drug and alcohol abuse and sexual violence. Additional secondary prevention resources developed by SGA include campus resource contact cards and bystander intervention informational door hangers.
Title IX Web Section
A section on Reinhardt’s website developed by student Stephen Vosika, coordinator of student involvement and orientation, will serve as an institutional resource about Title IX policies and resources for students, faculty, staff, their families and Reinhardt visitors.
“It is our commitment to support the rights of all members of the Reinhardt University community to work, live, and study in an environment free of sexual violence,” said Vosika. “The new Title IX web section will assist individuals in the understanding of new procedures that will apply for reporting and discipline procedures while connecting them to national, local, and campus resources to report incidents of sexual violence.”
“Stop. RU Ready to Talk?”
Another student-activated effort included a campus-wide sexual awareness marketing campaign, which was created by an Advertising and PR Strategies class, under the direction of Dave Garner, adjunct instructor. The class created four different flyers, each with three different statistics about sexual assault, as well as a coordinating brochure advertising the campaign.
“Our campaign slogan was “STOP. RU Ready To Talk?” said Jayde Crowe, co-coordinator for the class campaign. “So many people experience sexual assault and are scared to say anything. That was the main thing we wanted students to understand. It’s time to talk about it. If it has happened to you and you stay quiet and don’t tell anyone then that could be harming someone else’s safety.”
The campaign was implemented during Sexual Awareness Month and students were invited to take a pledge to help stop sexual violence on college campuses. Two large posters were created with blue handprints and signatures of the students who made the pledge.
“We had great results from this campaign,” said Crowe. “I think, as college students, we don’t realize how often sexual assault occurs. However, being on a college campus you are even more prone to it happening to you.”
Increased Safety and Accountability
Overall, the efforts of implementing all the Title IX procedures and policies have increased the safety and accountability of all Reinhardt students, faculty and staff. Educational programming at all constituency levels has improved; sexual violence awareness training is more consistent and thorough; and because of greater awareness, incident reporting has increased.
“How will we know if our energies put forth have been successful in helping the campus understand Title IX?” said Lee. “We will know this by how our students, faculty and staff are proactive, as well as reactive against sexual violence on campus; when there are more campus-wide discussions regarding awareness; and when violence issues have been prevented because of training. It all goes hand-in-hand and it will continue. Our goal is to make Reinhardt somewhere where all will want to be because it’s a safe place to live and work.”