The Title IX Student Advisory Committee and the WSA hosted an open forum to discuss the Title IX policy changes that have been enforced over the past school year. Students were encouraged to attend the Sunday, Nov. 1 meeting and pose questions or comments to the University’s Title IX Policy Committee.
The meeting started off by addressing the policy and education updates, and then it moved on to collect student feedback about the education initiatives and possible ways to execute no-contact order violations on campus.
The feedback from this forum will be used to inform future Title IX policy and education changes for the upcoming year. Some of these changes include student facilitators, no contact orders, group training sessions, and online videos about sexual consent.
“We’re continually trying to improve the education around Title IX on campus,” wrote Claire Wright ’16, student chair on the Title IX Policy Committee and co-chair of the Title IX Student Advisory Committee, in an email to The Argus. “This is an ongoing conversation and we continually need feedback to improve our campus.”
Title IX is a federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex at all federally funded educational institutions. Sexual violence is covered under Title IX, and in order for institutions to continue to receive federal funding, they must meet certain requirements. Nikita Rajgopal ’17, co-chair of the Title IX Student Advisory Committee and tri-chair of the Title IX Education Committee, addressed the importance of these meetings.
“Sexual violence prevention is an ongoing process, and it’s important for Wesleyan to continue to update their policies and educational programming to go beyond simply the baseline requirements,” Rajgopal wrote in an email to The Argus. “Having an ongoing conversation between students and the administration is essential to bettering Wesleyan’s policy and working on preventing sexual violence on campus.”
It is not only the Title IX coordinators who promote conversation about sexual violence on campus. The WSA co-hosted this forum and plays an active role in spreading awareness about the importance of the issue.
“I have had a unique look into the policy world of the extremely pervasive and deeply personal issue of sexual violence at Wesleyan,” wrote WSA President Kate Cullen ’16 in an email to The Argus. “I have found that compared to our peer schools, our administration is hitting more legal benchmarks. However, while on paper we look okay, I have seen first-hand how the Wesleyan system continues to fail students who should be protected under Title IX.”
In an effort to comply with the Title IX regulations, the University offers education and prevention programs for all students on campus. Additionally, forums such as this one occur throughout the year in order to address all questions students may have.
“Last year we held a similar event where the feedback that we collected was really vital to the policy changes that were made, so we wanted to work off that model,” Rajgopal wrote. “I want students to feel like they have a voice in what Wesleyan’s policy is and what educational programming we do. It’s important that the work that we are doing is relevant to students on campus so I hope students who attend feel like they can continue these conversations with us.”
Another forum was held on Nov. 4 to discuss Title IX in detail. This meeting, led by Equity Compliance Director, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Debbi Colucci, also served to answer any lingering questions that the student body had.
“I hope that people will leave with a clearer understanding of title IX policy and education initiatives at Wesleyan,” Wright wrote. “Furthermore, I hope people understand that their feedback within this forum will guide Wesleyan’s future. We are holding this forum because student feedback will inform Wesleyan’s future.”
These meetings have become much more frequent this year to make up for the lack of discussion in previous years. Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias noted the University’s need to expand its services.
“In the past we haven’t proactively engaged the campus through a variety of info sessions the way we are this year,” Farias wrote in an email to The Argus. “From here on, the norm will be more proactive engagement with various elements of the campus community so that we are better able to take a barometer reading on what’s working and what isn’t.”
Awareness continues to grow as more student groups become involved with the Title IX conversation. Cullen, however, questions just how close the University is to mending this issue once and for all.
“I’m happy the WSA helped co-host a Town Hall and I’m excited to announce that we now have a Title IX Working Group to provide support and collaboration space for students already working on the issue,” Cullen wrote. “Our ability as a community to talk about sexual violence has improved [in] the last few years, however, we have a long way to go to eliminate rape culture and create a fair Title IX judicial process.”
Farias sees this issue as being one step beyond gender equality. In his eyes, Title IX is a matter of respect.
“Wesleyan is about more than just compliance, it’s a unique living-learning laboratory where we must think and do in ways that speak to the fundamental core value of respect—as individuals and as an institution,” he wrote. “Regardless of where we come from, Wesleyan is the place where we must learn and act out of respect for others, for difference in all its forms. If we get that right, your education will be priceless.”