By Carina Sorrentino
The 1972 Education Amendments contained Title IX, one of the first pieces of legislation demanding equality for all people in their learning environment in an attempt to end sex discrimination. The Union website cites the original document stating:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
– Legal Citation: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 106 (Title IX)
Most associate Title IX with equal treatment within the athletics department; however, such a law extends to all rights on campus that have to do with gender equity. Sexual assault, harassment and discrimination cases are an unfortunate reality of college life.
Dealing with these incidents directly falls into the responsibilities of Union’s Title IX Coordinator and Senior Director of Campus Diversity and Affirmative Action Gretchel Hathaway. Along with her team of Deputy Coordinators, Hathaway seeks to provide information and resources to any victims of such events.
Within the last two to three years, colleges and universities have been asked to reevaluate their policies regarding Title IX and sexual assault cases. Communication is a primary concern and Hathaway states that her Deputies are faculty members from various facets of campus life.
Director of Multicultural Affairs and Campus Diversity Jason Benitez, Assistant Director of Residential Life A.J. Place, Director of Operations in Dining Services Callie Stacey and Senior Associate Director of the Athletic Department Joanne Little are available resources to students with issues pertaining to Title IX compliance.
By providing a broad range of faculty to interact with, Hathaway’s hope is to create an environment “where students can feel comfortable and safe learning about their rights and the necessary steps to take.” The hope is that by extending to as many reaches of campus via the Deputies, more students will feel comfortable approaching at least one member if necessary.
This year, new fliers have been posted in the Union restrooms in an attempt to inform students of their options in reporting and coping with a case of sexual assault. Phone numbers for Campus Safety, Health Services, Safe Space and the Counseling Center, along with their confidentiality policies, are listed. Furthermore, Hathaway encourages students to take advantage of the three to four events throughout the term that seek to educate students on these matters. For instance, this past Thursday, Professor Melinda Goldner spoke in the Nott Memorial on Domestic Violence Awareness and student empowerment.
Although many feel that informing students about sexual assault is a preventative measure, Hathaway feels it is best to be aware that these kinds of cases will occur. Hathaway remarks, “My primary reason for doing this job is to educate Union students about their rights. We need to be proactive in these situations and the best way for that to happen is for students to know beforehand what they can do.”
Students who contact an RA, professor or even a friend can only get so far. The Title IX Coordinator and Deputies are there to pick up where others may not know what approach to take. Not all students know that they can press criminal charges through local police or disciplinary charges through the school. Even beyond that, providing support for students to come forward and press any kind of charges is something that the college seeks to provide.
Hathaway also credits Union’s Counseling Center for being essential to proceedings in sexual assault cases. Counseling is absolutely recommended for any victim of sexual harassment or assault. Union’s counselors are unique because they are not hired from independent offices, but instead they are primary employees of the school. “They are an amazing team because they truly care about the students that go here,” stated Hathaway.
In upholding the values of Title IX Union has provided an outstanding team of people to help with overall education, consistent support and follow-up assistance for any student that is in need. It is not about being a man or a woman, but about having respect for people and allowing them to know their rights and responsibilities.
Hathaway wants victims to know that their voice matters in making the community safer for themselves and their peers. In order to achieve such goals, there is a necessary synergy that must come from the student body and faculty, from the facilities workers who hang posters listing resources to the counselors who administer advice. Union is dedicated to providing equal treatment and consideration for all in order to preserve the welcoming environment in which we live as students.