Just Ask is a new program at FSC, providing resources for students and faculty in cases of sexual discrimination or harassment. The program was influenced by Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in public and private schools receiving federal funding.

Dr. Marcie Pospichal, associate vice president for student support, was excited when the idea for Just Ask was introduced two years ago. She serves as the student support Title IX officer, working with students who feel they have experienced sexual discrimination or harassment.

“In April of 2011, the education department issued a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter. This explained the things we needed to do for our students and employees for Title IX to be active at the institution,” Pospichal said. “We [faculty] got excited when we saw the opportunity to apply the cornerstone values in a way that could impact our campus culture in positive ways.”

Just Ask encourages students to seek help from the program if they feel unsafe or that their rights have been violated.

“There seems to be concerns on college campuses about sexual safety,” Pospichal said. “It’s not just males against females, it’s females against males, males against males, and females against females. We want to keep our environment safe and happy.”

In order to understand and address students’ concerns, focus groups will be created. There will be three different groups: one directed for females, one group for males and one group that is gender-neutral.

[alert type=”blue”]“People still stereotype, profile and make their assumptions based on gender, race and even sexual preference. I think the fact that as a school community increasing awareness of Title IX is a big step in the right direction to really have the equal opportunity the amendment was passed for originally.”[/alert]

Dr. Deah Quinlivan, assistant professor of psychology will be involved in facilitating focus groups, and is the adviser for the Women’s Advocacy Club.

“This organization will help alleviate worries and provide students with the information they need to stay safe,” Quinlivan said. “When confronted with a situation or crisis, faculty and students might freeze and not know what to do next. By having a plan in place, people are able to get help.”

Junior Nick Stone, a Greek Village Resident Advisor, believes the most important aspect of Just Ask is equal opportunity.

“People still stereotype, profile and make their assumptions based on gender, race and even sexual preference,” Stone said. “I think the fact that as a school community increasing awareness of Title IX is a big step in the right direction to really have the equal opportunity the amendment was passed for originally.”

RA’s were trained prior to this school year for education initiatives surrounding sexual safety and diversity.

“The Just Ask program is convenient for students to learn their rights,” Brittany Babich, a sophomore RA, said. “RA’s are promoting Just Ask by doing different programs with their residents so they can be aware of the resources they have to fight sexual discrimination.”

The program is still very new to FSC, so the RA’s will contain to go through prevention training and initiatives to follow the correct procedures if a student is affected.

Pospichal mentions that if a student feels threatened or has experienced physical abuse, he or she has the right to file criminal charges. However, she says students do not need to make that call on their own if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Pospichal recommends students talk to someone at FSC first, and then report to places such as the Lakeland Police Department and Peace River Rape Crisis Service in order to get medical help and legal opportunity.

“Some things don’t rise to that level,” Pospichal said. “However, we take immediate measures to help both parties feel safe and supported.”

In certain cases, Pospichal will issue a no-contact rule. If a student who was harassed has a class with his or her offender, then they may be removed from the class. Pospichal will then gather information and act based upon what the affected student feels most comfortable with.

“There have been times where it was just a misunderstanding,” Posphical said. “We let people talk about how they felt during the offense. We hope that there is that new level of understanding and self-awareness.”

If necessary, Pospichal will lead a mediation for the people involved. She will have another female in the room if there is a female involved with the issue, or another male in the room if there is a male involved.

At this time, Pospichal will ask what happened in the offense, collect details, and then find out what each party wants. She will then follow up with permission of Katherine Pawlak, director of human resources, who deals with non-students or employees in the investigation.

Pospichal says the Counseling Center respects the privacy of students, but may have to get other parties involved. If a student just wants to talk to someone in complete confidentiality, Pospichal recommends a student to speak to Reverend Tim Wright to gain some form of closure.

“In some cases, neither party can be completely satisfied, which is the hardest part,” Pospichal said. “Sometimes we can’t undo something, but we can stop it in its tracks or prevent it from reoccurring.”

To find out more about Just Ask, visit www.fscsouthern.edu/just-ask, or email Dr. Pospichal at fscjustask@flsouthern.edu.