Just before the one-year anniversary of what is considered the start of the #MeToo movement, the University held a summit on Title IX to consult and create a dialogue with 29 other institutions and over 200 attendees.
Spearheaded by Vice President of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Jennifer McCary, the event featured two keynote speakers and several breakout sessions focusing on different aspects of sexual violence and Title IX.
The goal of the summit is to get “people feeling like ‘I just need to do something,’” McCary said. “It can’t just be on the administration. So I think that my goal with the summit is to be sure that people leave empowered and pumped up to go back to their campus and tell people ‘We can do this. It seems insurmountable, but we can truly change our campus.’”
Title IX has a long history of playing a part in making change on campus, and even though the guidelines necessary to follow Title IX are shifting, campuses get to choose how they are going to respond to reported cases of sexual violence.
“We are paying really close attention to Title IX. And not only are we trying to do it through that annual report to show people on campus that we’re paying attention, that there are a lot of things happening, reports are increasing, we’re trying to improve our response through new policy and adjudication. But we’re also trying to be leaders in the area and trying to get the discussion started in the state of Ohio through the summit,” McCary said.
The two speakers left two major takeaways from the event.
Sue Rankin, principal and chief executive officer of Rankin & Associates Consulting, “specializes in assisting educational institutions in maximizing equity through assessment, planning and implementation of intervention strategies,” according to the Rankin & Associates website.
Rankin discussed how to gauge campus climate to make sure universities know how their students are feeling. But she especially focused on students with marginalized identities and non-traditional students because they report sexual violence at a much lower rate than their counterparts.
“They don’t feel welcome,” Rankin said, speaking about those students. They have fewer role models and may experience microaggressions from faculty or staff. Making sure to have a more diverse staff that understands the impact of their words was a major part of the speech.
McCary also considered those ideas, mentioning how “Title IX impacts all students, so students with intellectual disabilities, students who file a report but are experiencing trauma.”
She also discussed how people should know that “what you say, what you do, what you post, it all matters . . . you have a real choice to make to whether your words are going to contribute to the culture we’re trying to break down or the culture we’re trying to build up.”
Shiwali Patel from the National Women’s Law Center outlined Title IX, its history and its future and that Title IX is a set of guidelines to meet, but colleges can do more.
“Title IX is the floor,” Patel said. “You can go above and beyond.”
This is also following the release of the “Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Annual Report,” which details the University’s procedures for reporting, intake and adjudication; prevention efforts launched in the Spring semester of 2018; and an update on the Sexual Assault Task Force Implementation Team’s progress.
Almost everything has changed since the report last year, McCary said. She made a huge effort to make sure students were being cared for, using best practices and following Title IX procedure. The conduct structure for reporting and intake was “completely overhauled,” she said.
“We can change the culture if we do it one day at a time,” McCary said.