Among Friends: Title IX

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This article is part of an ongoing series examining the support system available on campus and in the community for students who have experienced sexual assault. The next article will look at the legal side of the situation, including the LPD’s victim assistance unit. 

Recent scandals in colleges across the nation have sparked a debate about how sexual violence is handled on campus. Even the White House got involved by launching the “It’s On Us,” campaign last year.

Focus has increasingly turned to the Title IX program, a college’s program for handling any form of discrimination. At Florida Southern College the student support Title IX officer is Dr. Marcie Pospichal.

“Every employee, including RAs, have a duty to report any knowledge of that kind of thing that happens, that experience,” Pospichal said.

No matter who reports it, that knowledge eventually makes it to Pospichal as part of the program, also known as “Just Ask.” The program covers harassment, misconduct, non-consensual sex or sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking and any form of discrimination.

This year Just Ask has worked on increasing its visibility, peppering posters across campus and working on educational activities. On the website the “Just Ask” option has become more visible and this spring an anonymous reporting form was added on the portal.

Just Ask also began hosting events, such as the Just Askival and sponsoring the Night at the Oscars. Ray Lader, director of Community Living for accountability, said that the program has stepped up its efforts during student orientation and hopes to make a speaker part of the orientation process.

For students who go to the office to issue a complaint, the first line of questioning includes whether or not the complainant is safe from the respondent and, if not, if they want to take any steps. Sometimes this includes issuing a no contact order, which aims to remove any instances where the two will come into contact.

The next step is up to the student since Title IX officers are not required to contact law enforcement. Some students come to the program with the desire to launch a criminal or a Title IX investigation into an assault, both or if they simply want resources.

“Every student, again, deals with traumatic situations differently,” Amanda Blount, director of student education and compliance, said. “And so what works and is helpful and supportive for one student may be totally different for the next student.”

Getting a number on how many students are assaulted on college campuses each year is problematic, as some of the most well-known statistics have been called into question. Many rapes also go unreported, and a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 1995-2013 found that rapes and sexual assaults of female students were more likely to go unreported to police than that of non-students.

Getting the numbers for FSC is also complicated. The Clery Act requires colleges to report crime on campuses each year. FSC’s most recent Clery Report from 2013 showed one count of a reported forcible sex offense and no counts of non-forcible sex offenses. In 2011 and 2012, there were no reported counts of either.

The Clery Report has its pitfalls though.

“What may be in the Clery Report isn’t necessarily reflective of actual reports that we receive,” Lader said. “And part of it is Clery only requires that you report what has occurred on your actual campus, or the streets immediately adjacent to your campus.”

This means that anything that happens off-campus between students, or between a student and a non-student, is not included in the report.

The Title IX system has also faced some criticisms. Because a disciplinary action against sexual assault is not considered part of a student’s educational record, it will not go on that record.

“Right now the law says we may not and so we don’t,” Pospichal said. “And so, yeah, all college campuses are caught right now. We’re kind of hamstrung.”

Currently Just Ask is drafting a climate survey to see how the program is doing and what issues it faces on campus. They expect the survey go out this spring or fall.

The survey is a new requirements, and the program is planning on sending it out a year before the deadline. After that, it will be repeated every two years.

The goal of the program is to continue to grow and create more visibility so that students feel more comfortable reporting incidents.

“We went from very little to a lot [visibility], and then we’re going to continue to grow and try to find a way that it just becomes a part of our culture,” Lader said.