Over the summer break, conversations sparked over social media opened the space to discuss and criticize identity-based discrimination in college campus spaces; Whittier College was no exception. As a response to these on-going conversations, students Norma De la Rosa, Miranda Hidalgo, and Nicky Segura began working on a bill called “Systematically Addressing Systemic Issues in Societal and Athletic Culture.” Some of the Bill’s original goals included training and dialogues to “[combat] some of the racial injustice issues that had come about during the summer,” said Bill author Norma De la Rosa. This unfinished bill, which has been worked on since July, may be closer to approval at the same time that new Title IX policy is passing from the Whittier College administration. Though it was introduced to the ASWC Senate three weeks ago and has been read twice, the Bill needs to be read at least twice more at ASWC meetings, then voted on by senators for the campus to undergo its proposed changes. Currently, the Bill is being updated and “involving more voices, which includes student representatives and administration,” according to the Bill authors.
In addition to student initiatives, Title IX policy is also changing from the administration end of campus. The changes follow the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights’ releasing “new regulations governing college and university sexual assault policies under Title IX,” according to Title IX Coordinator Lafayette Baker, who revised the Whittier College Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Major changes administration is making to the College’s Title IX policy include requiring a Hearing Chair to oversee our Hearing Process. While the College previously had a “support person” role, the changes have classified this position as an advisor role. Additionally, Title IX Hearings “must allow cross examination of witnesses” and are not allowed to use a “single investigator model,” which would task only one Title IX Coordinator with “investigating, adjudicating, and issuing disciplinary sanctions against respondents,” said Lafayette Baker. Now, three separate officials — Title IX Coordinator, Investigator, and Hearing Chair — evaluate separate pieces of a single Title IX formal complaint process.
Title IX Coordinator Lafayette Baker also emphasizes the importance of Prevention and Outreach programs alongside Title IX policy reform. The Title IX team is currently working to provide programs including awareness campaigns, empowerment and risk reduction programming, and “will provide valuable information about the College’s policies and procedures, students’ rights and responsibilities, the practical implications of an affirmative consent standard, primary prevention, and bystander intervention.” Additionally, the Title IX team is providing more training to staff and faculty, with a goal “to increase student, staff, and faculty understanding of the sexual misconduct policy, remove barriers to reporting, and support survivors.”
“We want the changes to the Title IX policy to ensure compliance with federal and state civil rights laws and regulations. We want to affirm the College’s commitment to promoting the values of fairness and equity in all aspects of the educational program or activity. In addition, we want to develop internal policies and procedures that provide a prompt, fair, and impartial process for those involved in Title IX investigations.” -Title IX Coordinator Lafayette Baker
The students at Whittier College may also be contributing to upcoming changes in Title IX policy, should ASWC Senate approve the Systematically Addressing Systemic Issues in Societal and Athletic Culture BIll. According to the latest publicly available draft of the Bill on Engage, the Bill strives to “develop a system in which attempts to systemically address the rape culture, and culture of discrimination found within their social spheres.” The Bill, originally, was created to address Title IX violations involving racial discrimination on campus as described by @blackatwhittier, which encouraged similar conservation over the summer, according to Director of the Office of Student Engagement Christine Hernandez. As Title IX is a non-discrimination policy that also addresses sexual misconduct, the Bill “transformed into a larger conversation surrounding issues on campus, including those surrounding sexism and sexual assault on campus,” said Hernandez.
Both Hernandez and Associate Dean for Student Life Deanna Merino-Contino offered feedback at the Bill’s first reading on Nov. 9 that encouraged the Bill to undergo some changes, as the administration end typically handles Title IX policy. The two administration members also informed the Bill’s authors and ASWC Senators what the Title IX Committee was currently working on and expressed a desire to include athletic changes similar to the Title IX reforms that the original Bill pushed for. Merino-Contino told the Bill’s authors that student voices had been involved in the Title IX reform currently underway, though the Bill’s authors say they “were never contacted nor involved in any way.”
In light of feedback provided at the Bill’s second reading, which was held Nov. 16, authors De la Rosa, Hidalgo, and Segura are adding changes to “involve more student voices, specifically society and athletic representatives into the conversation of this bill because we don’t know exactly what their needs are.” Additionally, the authors plan to be “more specific in our needs when it comes to accountability, budget allocation, and the role of the institution to take more responsibility in the lack of support and prevention there is for students.”
The Bill’s new mission is to address “systemic issues within the [Whittier College] institution when it comes to Title IX and demand accountability and support from the institution [including] real support coming from the Title IX department and Dean of Students and the new Gender Equity Taskforce.” The authors expressed dissatisfaction with Title IX responsibility being, what they believed, primarily handled by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Authors De la Rosa, Hidalgo, and Segura would prefer “a more open collaboration from all departments, seeing that Title IX issues are everyone’s obligation to protect students, not just a small portion on campus.”
Featured image: Courtesy of Emerson Little/ Quaker Campus