BY NATALIE VAN BOOVEN
The University of Missouri Board of Curators has authorized changes to the UM system’s Title IX procedures.
On Oct. 2, UM curators met in Kansas City, Mo. and approved changes presented by Pres. Tim Wolfe. The most prominent of these changes is an investigation period of 60 days; others include changes as to how students and student organizations can file complaints. Initially, the executive order sent in April. by Wolfe on this issue compelled all UM employees to report Title IX violations—the actual term is mandated reporter—but exemptions were soon made for employees with legal requirements or privileges of confidentiality, such as counselors and lawyers.
Title IX refers to the 1972 law forbidding sex-based discrimination in “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Its story begins with the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, one of many parts of Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program. HEA must be re-authorized every four to six years; Title IX appeared during the second re-authorization in 1972. Ind. Senator Birch Bayh, Title IX’s author and main Senate sponsor, originally wrote it as part of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), but the ERA could not get out of committee. Pres. Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972. When Hawaii Rep. Patsy Mink, Title IX’s co-author, died in Oct. 2002, the law was renamed The Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of her memory.
When some people hear the phrase “Title IX,” they immediately think of school athletic programs. This is because, even though few federal dollars fund school sports directly, Title IX affects the entire campus if federal money maintains any part of it. However, Title IX covers more than school sports; math and science, access to higher education, education for pregnant and parenting students and standardized testing are other areas of influence. When UM curators approved changes to the UM system’s Title IX policies, they specifically addressed the sexual harassment section of the law. The changes to the Collected Rules and Regulations aim to replace existing sexual-harassment rules, explain what sexual discrimination is and define how Title IX offices on each of the four campuses (Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis) will investigate cases.
In issuing that executive order back in April, Pres. Wolfe sought to make the UM system a leader in thwarting sexual misconduct at the college level. To that end, over 100 people—not only Title IX coordinators but also deputy coordinators and investigators—have been trained across the system. In addition, university officials have spent over $1 million ($495,000 to hire a consultant and $515,000 to apply the changes) to address sexual harassment and discrimination.
In response to complaints about making changes too quickly, Wolfe said, “I will gladly take the criticism if we can save one more person from being sexually assaulted.”
Since Title IX affects an entire campus if any part of it is federally funded, because of the law’s association with school sports (only three NCAA programs are entirely self-funded) and due to the fact that the law was introduced as part of HEA’s re-authorization, Title IX certainly concerns nearly every college and university in the United States. To find out Title IX’s influence on the McKendree campus, I interviewed both our Title IX Coordinator (Ms. Shirley Baugh, Director of Human Resources) and our Title IX Deputy Coordinator (Dr. Joni Bastian, Vice President for Student Affairs). What follows is a selection of questions from the interview, which took place on Nov. 25.
As a coordinator, what are your responsibilities?
Baugh: My job is to investigate claims of policy violation, which includes sexual discrimination.
Dr. Bastian: I don’t take part in claims involving third parties or faculty unless students are involved. I’m for the student side, while Shirley’s for the employee side. I make sure the process of resolving a complaint is fair and equitable; if one party brings an attorney, then the other party must have the same opportunity.
How long have you been a coordinator?
Baugh and Dr. Bastian: Since April of 2011, when the “Dear Colleague” letter came our way. [NOTE: Sent by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights of the U. S. Department of Education, the “Dear Colleague” letter addressed Title IX’s impact in keeping educational settings free of “sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence.” Typically, “dear colleague” letters describe a new bill and then ask their readers in the House or the Senate to co-sponsor the bill or to persuade the bill’s recipients to vote for or against it. In this case, the letter asked college campuses nationwide to become more vigilant about stopping sexual discrimination and harassment.]
What sort of training is involved?
Dr. Bastian: I was in Washington, DC, two weeks ago [Nov. 11] to receive training on investigating and handling sexual assault. I learned about the training available for students and employees, which is aimed at changing campus culture.
How does McKendree implement and enforce Title IX?
Baugh: On an as-needed basis, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault sends updates of its requirements for compliance, and then we go back and apply the updates to McKendree’s sexual discrimination policy. Just last year, the Campus Save Act was passed, which required us to change our Clery reporting requirements to include dating, domestic violence and stalking. [NOTE: Signed into law in 1990, the Clery Act compels all colleges and universities taking part in federal financial-aid programs to report crimes that happen on and near their campuses.]
How can students help McKendree comply with Title IX?
Dr. Bastian: Since August, we have talked to all student athletes in their compliance rates, as well as to student groups and student employees. My RA staff focused their educational program on healthy relationships, sexual-assault prevention and bystander intervention. Spearheading McKendree’s participation in the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign are Kaitlyn Cartwright [RA for New Hall West’s first floor] and Dakota Reed [RA for New Hall East’s first floor].
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