A mere day before the national affecting recension of the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) by Trump’s administration, the University of Redlands and the Title IX department held a forum regarding Title IX policy and the possible effects of this national change on the U of R campus. The forum introduced Erica Moorer, the new Deputy Title IX coordinator, who was joined by a team of administrators that are all involved with the university’s Title IX policies. The Title IX team illustrated their plan to end sexual assault on campus and to continue the national conversation. Excitement for Moorer’s new position and plans for the university packed the forum room with greek life, students, faculty and community members.
Title IX federal law prohibits discrimination based on sex for schools and programs that receive federal funding. The DCL passed by the Obama administration was not a law. However, it served as a guidance to show schools how the department for Title IX should review and investigate cases, specifically regarding sexual assault cases. Under this law and the DCL, schools receiving federal funding are required to investigate and respond to gender discrimination. Failure to do so is a violation of the law, which means the government could cut their ties with colleges and universities. For more information about Title IX, visit: https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/
The Trump administration released a statement on Sept. 15 announcing that Betsy DeVos, United States Secretary of Education, will be rescinding Obama’s the DCL that put Title IX standards into play.
“Because of the uncertainty of what the federal government chooses to do, we thought it was important here at the university to hear how we are going to respond to the changing landscape,” said Jared Rodrigues, Director of Student Conduct and event panelist. “The thing is no matter what the federal government does or does not do, we at a higher education community intend to continue occupying this space and continuing the effort to educate and eradicate sexual assault on our campus.”
The new Title IX reform allows higher education institutions to choose from two options for action: provide an equal appeal process for both the complainant and the respondent, and one that would only extend that opportunity to the respondent. Brent Geraty, general attorney for the University, explained that most schools will continue their policies, as they are committed to protecting their students. The university sent out an all school email explaining their stance.
“We want the entire community to know what was said at Thursday’s program: the University of Redlands will not abandon, or lessen, its commitment to educate and adjudicate on the issue of sexual misconduct. The University’s structure and processes for serving both survivors and those accused of sexual violence will not change while the federal review takes place. Much of the criticism levied against the higher education community’s response to sexual assault results from a perception that investigations and procedures are not fair. The University’s care in preserving fundamental fairness for all individuals permits us to continue our current practices,” the email stated.
The forum engaged the community on the rules and procedures surrounding the policies behind pursuing a sexual assault case within the University of Redlands. Moorer noted that sexual assault complainants are not forced to talk about anything that may make them uncomfortable. Also, Rodrigues made it clear that any notes during an investigation from both the complainant and respondent will only be accessible to the investigator, the victim, and the accused. He clearly stated that witnesses to cases will not receive information that they did not priorly obtain.
“It is our job as investigators and our approach to make sure that we explain why we are asking the questions we are asking and what relevance they may have so we don’t have a chilling effect,” Rodrigues said. “We want to get the best information and we can do that when people are comfortable to be honest and open…. We don’t say we are impartial as investigators, we like to say we are multi-partial which means we have to treat everyone with respect and care.”
During the Q&A portion of the forum, a sorority leader asked how to confront sexual and vulnerable situations concerning alcohol and substance use in a party setting. A paper was left on all of the tables listing multiple situations concerning the highest cases of sexual assault on a college campus. Here is an example:
“Jamie is a student who recently started taking a medication that interacts with alcohol. Jamie didn’t know that and blacked out while at a party. Jamie then had sex with someone they met at the party but does not remember doing so. Several of Jamie’s friends who were also at the party, said Jamie seemed to be fine, and the friends were unaware Jamie was blacked out or heavily intoxicated.”
This topic then flowed to validating the victim’s experience and emotions while still acknowledging the fact that the victim’s friends were unaware of the severity of her intoxication therefore, her sexual partner would most likely be unaware as well.
One participant commented when it comes to education, it is more important to teach our campus how not to assault someone, not just the process of investigating a sexual assault case. Later when talking to several other people after the forum had ended, all agreed. Several community members in attendance felt that we should all be talking more about affirmative consent and how each situation has a different context.
While the the community and the university both acknowledge that there is room for improvement in terms of how issues of sexual assault are handled, it is clear that the Title IX team is dedicated to the fight.
photos contributed by reporter, Amanda Schmalzried