The University has announced its plan to examine its Title IX policy as well as its adherence to the Violence Against Women Act in a two-day long series of meetings with members of the University and external reviewers from the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC). In an all-campus email, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias outlined the upcoming review by the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) in conjunction with the campus-based Title IX Student Advisory Committee, Title IX Policy Committee, and members of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA). The review will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Title IX is a multi-pronged process of continuous improvement, meaning there is end to the struggle for gender equity,” Farias wrote in an email to The Argus. “The Title IX external review Wesleyan conducted 4 years ago provided the Title IX committees with a functional road map of changes that needed to be done.”

The VRLC is a nonprofit law organization with offices in Boston, Mass. and Portland, Ore., that serves survivors of sexual assault nationwide. Deputy Director Lindy Aldrich, Education Program Senior Attorney Amanda Walsh, and affiliated attorney Candi Smiley, who is also Title IX director at Howard University, will be coming to the University as members of the external review team.

Founded as the first law center in the nation dedicated solely to serving the legal needs of sexual assault victims, the VRLC is the leader in representing sexual assault victims within the civil context,” the group’s website reads.

The organization was chosen in a collaborative process that began by communicating with Title IX coordinators at other universities to acquire names of reputable consultants. After narrowing the field to four contenders, the Student Advisory Committee and the Policy Committee debated and made the final recommendation for selection. Additional information on each reviewer as well as a schedule of events are available on the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s website.

We agreed on VRLC for a few reasons: their credibility with many campuses, their lens toward creating fair process as well as supporting survivors and their ability to provide a diverse team,” Farias wrote.

Equity Compliance Director and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Debbie Colucci outlined a few goals of the review, citing specifically the need to perpetually seek improvement in the University’s policies.

“We have two primary goals.  First, we know what our policies and procedures are and we know how they have evolved over the past few years through the work of a number of committees of student/faculty/staff; what we hope to learn from this review is if the current policies and procedures are working for our community,” wrote Colucci in an email to The Argus. “The second goal is ideas; we are looking for feedback and best practices from the consultants in order to continually revise our processes.”
Nila Ravi ’18 and Kate Macken ’19 were the members of the WSA who co-chaired the Title IX advisory committee.

“They’re meeting with a wide range of groups on campus — administrators, faculty, and students — and hopefully they will be able to understand the pain points of the Title IX process from all of these important perspectives,” Ravi said. “Personally, I’m hoping to advocate for increasing accessibility to the process for all students. I have been working directly with the Title IX office for two years now to improve Wesleyan’s process and this has been a personal focus for me.”

In particular, there are three established issues the review will aim to address, as mentioned in Farias’ email: the lack of clarity of resources; accessibility of the process to all, including underrepresented populations of students, faculty, and staff; and the interaction between the Title IX Office and other first responders. These key weaknesses were brought to the attention of the University as a result of the attention hard work of all on campus working to better the community through improving its policies. Farias paid tribute to the efforts of this group in the years since the external review was undertaken.

I also want to note that the Title IX Committees, composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives, have been working these issues for the past three years non-stop; and the changes made are the direct result of engagement with all aspects of the campus community as well as on and off-campus support resources,” wrote Farias. “The external assessment of Title IX we are about to undergo is the next step in our continuous improvement ethos.”

“The primary reason for the consulting group coming to Wesleyan, I believe, is to make the Title IX adjudication process and Title IX related resources accessible to all students who potentially want and need it,” Ravi said. “In recent years numbers have shown that fewer students have been utilizing the Title IX process as a resource. This, coupled with the circumstances surrounding the departure of Scott Backer, and the subsequent student activism calling for reform, were big reasons why the consulting group is coming as well.”

  • DavidL

    How about some reviewers who would challenge the campus on ideas of due process as well as the items indicated above. Your reviewers are part of the Title IX apparatus and dependent on that apparatus for their livelihoods. A more broad thinking group of reviewers would give me confidence that Wesleyan would get more out of this than the usual stuff. The “needs of the sexual assault victims” is not the only issue here. Allow yourselves to be challenged.