Title IX Explained: Detailing the steps of the Title IX process and other support resources

Bel Carden, Special Features Editor

Despite ample efforts to educate college students about sexual assault and prevent its occurrence, gender-based violence continues to bedevil college campuses. On average one in five women experience some form of sexual assault during their undergraduate studies, compared with one in 16 men. Recognizing the issue, universities have made efforts to fight sexual violence and create a safer, more equitable environment on college campuses. One of these efforts is the Title IX amendment. 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX forbids any educational institutions, such as universities and colleges, from discriminating against members of the campus community based upon their gender. When originally established, the central goal of Title IX was to create equal opportunities for women on campus, specifically with regard to campus sports. Today, a university’s Title IX can expect its primary focus to be all forms of sexual harassment/assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking claims. Furthermore, Title IX requires universities to respond quickly and effectively to any report of sexual misconduct as well as take steps to prevent any in the first place. Title IX is also a helpful resource to members of the LGBTQ community as it prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.  Although many college students are aware of the Title IX amendment and have been educated on it before in their college career, most are not well versed in the details of how a Title IX process would work. 

If a student experiences discrimination based on their sexuality or gender or experiences any type of sexual misconduct, they may file a Title IX report through the University’s online reporting form, bucknell.edu/titleix, or file a report directly to Institutional Equality & Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hart via email ([email protected]), phone (570-577-1554) or in person at her office in Marts 232. Following the filing of a report, the Title IX Coordinator will work with the individual student to find the best course of action for them. This could be a formal complaint and University investigation, or a disciplinary hearing. The student could also request an informal resolution or a different measure such as a no-contact order, access to counseling services, employment, transportation, academic flexibility, or residence hall reassignment. A student can also request anonymity and require that the university not move forward with a response at the time of a report. Title IX Coordinator (TIXC) Hart emphasizes that, as Coordinator, her and her office work towards supporting these students however possible. “If a student needs support, however, they are encouraged to reach out to let us know what we can do to help- we can be flexible and work with the student on their needs and even if something they are requesting is not available,” she said, “we will endeavor to find alternative solutions.”

Another resource for students who have experienced sexual assault – or would simply like to become more involved in sexual assault prevention on campus – is the SpeakUp program. SpeakUp is a student-led-and-run organization focused on educating their peers on topics of consent, healthy relationships and bystander intervention and working towards ending sexual violence on campus. While both the Title IX office and support programs such as SpeakUp work towards sexual assault prevention on campus, it is important to remember the Title IX office is not a confidential source. 

Coordinator Hart explained that because such a foundational aspect of the Title IX amendment is making sure universities respond to the reports filed, these reports cannot be anonymous. “The Title IX office is not a confidential source like counseling or the Interpersonal Violence Prevention & Advocacy Coordinator because the Title IX Coordinator needs to ensure the University is responding appropriately to each and every report,” Hart said. “That being said, the information shared with the Title IX Coordinator is kept private and only other campus administrators who have a need-to-know basis will become aware. This is so the appropriate staff members can assist in assuring the student is getting the support they need, and the campus is safe. The TIXC will share the most limited amount of information necessary in order to coordinate responses from other campus offices when implementing support measures or formal responses.” She also said that, although Title IX reports and investigations cannot be conducted or made anonymously, information about the student’s experience will not be shared with any third parties without the student’s consent. 

On the other hand, both SpeakUp and Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Advocacy Coordinator Lindsey Higgins do not have this same requirement. Rather, Lindsey describes her and the program’s role as follows; “when students come to me for support, I am not required to report that information to Title IX, P Safe, the Conduct office, or otherwise (with the exception of immediate harm to self or others, or the involvement of a minor). This allows survivors to have full autonomy over their story, the course of action they choose to take, and the resources they access. Since SpeakUp is under my advisement, that confidentiality privilege is extended to them as well. Therefore, they are also not required to report to Title IX. Though, they are able to educate their peers on Title IX and connect their peers to Samantha Hart as a resource if they wish to make an official report.”

Along with leading educational workshops, SpeakUp also organizes different events throughout the year where survivors can share their experiences with the University community. These events include “Take Back the Night, the Clothesline Project, No More Month, the Red Flag Campaign, Purple Thursday, Sex Positive Week and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Lindsey Higgins describes how impactful these events are for all in attendance by reflecting on this year’s Take Back the Night. “TBTN is a community event that aims to empower and uplift survivors of sexual violence through speeches, storytelling, and healing through arts such as poetry and music. The event concludes with a solidarity march around campus where attendees call for accountability and a recommit to ending interpersonal violence on our campus,Higgins said. 

“It was incredibly moving to see students, faculty, and staff in our community surround survivors with love and support and even more so to see the survivors who were brave enough to share their stories step into their power and use their voices to affect change,” Higgins said. 

Programs such as SpeakUp, events like “Take Back the Night,” and the Title IX Office can all help provide support for those on campus affected by sexual violence. Although the Title IX office and SpeakUp do differ in some ways, they both have the same central objective – helping students cope with sexual assault or misconduct.

“I want students to feel comfortable reporting concerns and confident in the University’s response.  The Title IX process is designed to be transparent and fair – with all students having access to supportive measures through the Title IX Office. Regardless of whether someone wants to file a formal complaint or pursue a formal disciplinary process, the Title IX Coordinator can connect the student to support services and walk the student through the entirety of their options in helping to resolve concerns,” Hart said. She encourages students who may need such assistance to contact the Title IX Office. 

More information on SpeakUp and the Title IX Office can be found on their respective University webpages. Students can also find ways to become involved and connect with SpeakUp via their social media platforms on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. 

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