Recent Dear Colleague Letters have refocused much energy in higher education on Title IX. While long aimed at enabling underrepresented groups access to a full student experience and education, this heightened awareness is both a challenge and valuable call to action to all practitioners. Taking a broad stroke approach to Title IX compliance, panelists in our latest webinar sharee their experiences with Title IX: policies and procedures, implementation of prevention programs, impact on retention, and insight towards emerging issues.
Has your institution implemented educational programing focused on Title IX?
Korina discussed that Title IX has become a catch all for most legislation and compliance initiatives but it hasn’t changed it requirements since it was instituted in the 70’s. What we are familiar with seeing right now is from the guidance that has been issued from the Office of Civil Rights, as well as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the addendum of the Campus Save Act. It is this legislation that requires institutions that receive federal funding to institute specific programing, where as Title IX issues guidance on what institutions have to do. For a number of years institutions have been issuing incoming students alcohol education with some of that education focused on sexual assault but more recently education on sexual assault has become more intentional. Contractors that universities use to provide education to incoming students have expanded and become more literature based in how they are providing education. Our ability to offer bystander education has been strengthened, due to the research and language that has come from Title IX as well as Campus Save Act. Since we are now required to institute bystander education, it has become easier to find support for instituting these types of educational programs. Bystander education programs are creating a community with a sense of belonging and sense of care that can probably be more easily been seen in the impacts of retention. Krista mentioned that on her campus they have worked with the Step Up Program and had great success with students who have enjoyed participating in it but also have utilized their education for the program.
What impacts have you seen from these programs?
Krista shared that these program help build community on campus and create an environment where students feel safe and feel comfortable making reports. Anecdotally from our Step Up training and bystander training we have had a lot of students who have come to facilitators after those trainings, and talked about how they now would step up to help someone. With our program specifically we have tried to look at how likely students are to intervene prior to the training and after the training. In our pre-test we find that students would only step up to help a very close friend, whereas in our post-test responses students say that they would intervene to help someone who they do not know or view an acquaintance. Based on this data it is our hope that as this spreads and grows it builds a community where people look out for each other. From our campus climate survey data students tell us that they find the bystander trainings moderately or very useful and that they are likely to employ those skills in their everyday lives. While it is our hope that students never have to use these skills, we know that they're going to have to use it during their time at our institution or later on in life. Korina added that on her campus they use the Haven program that mainly focuses on basic language, which is what Title IX requires, definitions, and explanation of what is your process. Because of this education we have been providing under Title IX, we have seen an increase in reporting and that's something that institutions have to be prepared for and aware of.In a report specifically we know that the training is having an impact on students because they are citing the training in the reports. They talked about going through a bystander training or Green Dot training, or if a friend hadn't told them that it was their responsibility to do something, then they wouldn't have done anything or know what to do.
What impacts have the inclusion of Title IX procedures had on feelings of safety on campus?
Krista started by breaking this down into three categories, prevention, policy and reporting. Title IX details your policy and having this policy readily available to students faculty and staff is very important. But it also means taking something which is typically a 20 page policy and making it digestible for someone who is in crisis or needs help immediately. Krista approaches their policy from the perspective of breaking it down into sound bites so that individuals can get to the information that they need immediately. If people are more aware of what the policy is, then hopefully they're more likely to make reports and more likely to know what resources are available to them. It is important to create a reporting structure so victims feel comfortable reporting, where they feel validated and valued and they know where to go for help. We have found we have been able to increase knowledge and awareness of our faculty and provide them with language and resources of how to be a responsible employee if someone reports an incident to them. It is our hope that this knowledge and awareness has informed faculty that they do not have to be a one-stop-shop if someone reports something and they know what resources to connect with. Korina echoed that it is important to have a consistent and consistent message. Often the media has the largest impact on the communities feeling of safety, which is outside of Title IX and VAWA. Students are seeing these messages on various social media sources and this is one of our greatest challenges with the perception of safety on campuses.
How have your Title IX procedures and prevention efforts impacted retention?
Because retention is so individualized this is the most challenging question to answer, what makes one student feel safe and comfortable probably makes another student feel worried. It is really a sense of community and blogging we can create on our campuses through by standard education, which most likely impacts retention. Students who feel they belong and feel they are valued are more likely to stay at an institution. If we can get students talking about this challenging of a subject during the first year, which we know is most important. Then hopefully as a byproduct of this type of prevention education we can get them to talk about smaller issues or challenges they are facing and seeking help for those as well. Schools have really done a great job at trying to make their programs fit students specific needs, which Krista shared an example from her campus. To see students find their niche through this type of program it reinforced to our Title IX committee that we need to take a step back and think about how our meeting these individual students where they are. Kroina then explained that we need more education around trauma education to better engage with students and recognize their concerns early on. How this all impacts retention is through creating a sense of community and belonging where students see they have a place filled with people who care about them.
What are the emerging issues with Title IX and legislation?
Korina shared what she has noticed more more with Title IX is case law. Case law as defining this and every judge in every state seems to have a different interpretation. Much of this is probably more prevalent for the procedure and the adjudication of Title IX cases more so than the prevention education of Title IX cases. In legislation there are still some at the federal level and even the state level that are focusing on how colleges should be reporting, what is evidence collection and who can do it, and what are the confidentiality statues around who can keep information safe and protected without reporting that. The types of lawsuits that are being brought forth will most likely direct how the pendulum swings next. Krista agreed with the pendulum swinging, who knows where it will swing next. There is a lot right now with men's groups who are saying that colleges are not respecting the rights of their male students on campus or the alleged perpetrators of crimes on campus. Which is hard to do when you are trying to protect your community and it is a hard to find a balance. Also we should be keeping an eye on affirmative consent, yes means yes laws, that are being passed in some states and also in some cities. How does this then impact policies on campus and how you balance federal guidance, state laws, local ordinances/laws and blend these all together.
About the Panelists
Korina Ramsland Short has been the Director of the Gender Equity Center at Johnson & Wales University, Providence campus since 2007. She has worked in prevention and response to sexual violence and domestic violence for over 10 years: at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and at Day One, the Sexual Assault & Trauma Resource Center of RI. Korina served a panelist at the April 2012 Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) Title IX and Sexual Assault conference regarding creating a trauma informed approach to working with student victims of sexual assault. Most recently Korina recognized with the Community Award by the Women’s Center of Rhode Island (a domestic violence resource agency) at the 2015 Women of Excellence ceremony. She also serves on RI Congressman David Cicilline’s Women’s Advisory Board.
Krista Bailey Murphy is the Dean of Student Life and Title IX Coordinator at Chestnut Hill College. Her undergraduate degree is in Communication Studies and Psychology from Ursinus College. She has an MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a PhD in Educational Psychology from Temple University. Her dissertation focused on adolescent risk taking and risk tempering behaviors in high-achieving college students (as it relates to alcohol use, drug use and sexual activity). Prior to working at CHC she worked in residence life at Saint Joseph's University. Her primary responsibilities include campus safety & security, student activities, judicial affairs, new student orientation, and health & wellness prevention education. As a student-athlete in College, she has a special interest in working with student-athletes and is deeply committed to Catholic higher education.