Miami revamps policies to comply with Title IX sexual harrassment regulations
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 03:10
Miami University received additional guidance from the federal government aimed to aid universities in complying with Title IX—the law prohibiting sex discrimination and outlining sexual harassment protocol.
A ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent out by the federal government stated, ‘Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.’
According to Miami’s Title IX coordinator, interim director of Miami’s office of equity and equal opportunity, Kenya Ash, Title IX binds all educational programs receiving financial assistance from the federal government.
In April of 2011 the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter was sent to all federally financially assisted colleges and universities in an attempt to provide additional guidance and clarification to the portion of Title IX regarding sexual harassment, Ash said.
“The letter explains the university’s responsibilities for example to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence… ” Ash said. “So, what it is essentially is a guideline for universities to follow to ensure that they are in complete compliance with Title IX requirements.”
Ash said Miami has taken multiple steps to enhance the university’s adherence to Title IX.
“We met for several months after the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter came out to determine what changes or additions to various policies, educational programs, etcetera needed to take place,” Ash said. “They have been revised.”
One such revision was an addition to Miami’s policy manual, Ash said.
“We added a new definition section to the [sexual harassment] policy to try and make it more user-friendly,” Ash said. “It includes definitions for harassment discrimination, and it also gives examples of the type of conduct that’s prohibited under the policy.”
Section 3.6.B of the Miami University Policy and Information Manual of 2012-2013 includes examples such as the following: ‘Offensive and unwanted conduct includes offensive jokes, offensive pictures and digital images, slurs, epithets, threats, intimidation, stalking and sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion.’
Ash said in addition to the ‘Definitions’ section of Miami’s policy, the university has appointed a deputy Title IX coordinator for athletics—Associate Athletic Director Jennifer Gilbert—along with a deputy Title IX Coordinator for student sexual assault, Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard.
“We thought that the best thing to help ensure the safety of our students as well as our faculty and staff on campus is to ensure that there are plenty of people who are trained in this area who are aware of the issues and who can in some way try to assist,” Ash said.
Mosley-Howard was unavailable for comment, but Gilbert mentioned another key installment in handling cases of sexual harassment.
“They’ve also completed summer training for residence life that included some of these particular issues [of sexual harassment and sexual assault] especially as it relates to the Clery Act…” Gilbert said. “The Clery Act is a federal mandate that specific people in supervisory roles are required to report to authority when they hear an instance of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
According to Ash, educating students, staff and faculty is vital in preventing and handling issues related to Title IX.
“One of the key components of the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter is to ensure that our community is educated on these issues…” Ash said. “Since the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, we now have the new-hire online sexual harassment training that’s required for continued employment, and we are in the process of getting current employees to take it as well.”
President of Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault (WAVES) Robin Lavigna talked about how the organization has been working to increase this education in Miami community as well.
“We go around and talk to women about sexual assault and how to reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted,” Lavigna said. “We just kind of raise awareness on campus—we all feel that everyone needs to be more aware.”
According to Lavigna, many are surprised to find out that sexual assault occurs every two minutes in America.
“I feel like awareness is pretty low [at Miami]… ” Lavigna said. “When I go in to do presentations I have a lot of shocked people when they find out how often sexual assaults occur. Sometimes people don’t even know the definition of sexual assault.”
Lavigna said that recent incidents at Miami have begun to move the university in the right direction.
According to Ash, this push for awareness is motivated by the need to encourage students, staff and faculty to respond efficiently to incidents of sexual harassment and violence.