KC Spotlight - Campus Safety & Violence Pervention


Author
Allan Ford, NASPA IV-W Campus Safety & Violence Prevention KC Representative

Published
June 28, 2017


June 23rd marked the 45th anniversary of Title IX legislation. We have all heard of this legislation, most of us have had some level of interaction with it on our campuses, and a select few are charged with implementing and deciphering federal guidelines and responsibilities. The spirit of Title IX lies in access and equity, but in recent years, it has evolved to include actual social justice. Since so many #SApros consider themselves Social Justice Warriors, it begs the question: why does Title IX scare us?

For most, the answer lies in the hefty fines associated with non-compliance. It seems like news of investigations and court appointed fines saps our enthusiasm for justice and safety into aspirations to simply get by.

We ask ourselves questions like:

Are we doing enough?

Or

Are we meeting compliance expectations?

Recent publications address the federal approach to compliance that seems to carry the ironic tone of bullying institutions into compliant policies. Our campus communities are faced with the difficult task of welcoming prospective students who have been guided by societal norms that do not always embrace inclusivity, celebrate diversity and encourage acceptance. Some of the battles we face are regional perspectives that have already captured the minds of our students. We try to create controlled spaces to have difficult conversations about identity, privilege, and healthy sexual relationships. We challenge our students to dive deeper than stereotypes. We try to practice self-care to gird ourselves for the battles that lie ahead with the blunt statements of the bigoted, the piercing rhetoric of the close-minded, and the stinging tweets from well-meaning, but tone-deaf students. Backwards thinking from purely ignorant values can permeate our first-time freshmen and non-traditional students alike. It’s well-documented that these beliefs influence unwanted behaviors, so to create a better culture, means the work must be done to change attitudes. The question is how do we do this AND stay complaint?

As the Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Knowledge Community Representative for Region IV-West, I can say with absolute confidence: I don’t have the answer.

But I do have a couple of suggestions.

  1. Connect with local schools to begin the Title IX Conversation. Despite the focus on institutions of higher education, a little known fact is that Title IX applies to K-12 as well. I spoke to a few middle school administrators who agree that introducing their students to Title IX-related terms, phrases and themes is appropriate. These same administrators provided alarming realities about their students, but also spoke to the students’ maturity. Additionally, following up with a more in-depth Title IX focus in high school could curb some of the unwanted behaviors we see from our first time freshman, and in the short-term, provided a less awkward approach to sexual assault awareness and prevention during orientation. Since the students would be coming in already familiar with Title IX, we could either have more meaningful discussions, or provide more orientation time for other issues.
  2.  Utilize faculty to assist in training/prevention. One of the taboos of higher education is the strained relationship between faculty and staff. It usually comes down to a lack of appreciation for the other side; however, there are those within the ranks of both who are dedicated to reaching out to improve the relationship. Recently, I had the chance to work with a Psychology professor, in my capacity as a Title IX Coordinator. Tasked with training Title IX Deputies with investigative training, I had a conversation with this professor, who has done research regarding the way the brain functions when remembering specific events. She has been a joy to work with and essentially said she’s always willing to help, but never knew how she could. In fact, she can get so bogged down in her own work and academic research, that she hardly realizes that issues like sexual assault are going on, much less that there are people dedicated to addressing these things on campus.

Every other day another institution is being sued or another federal investigation ends with a hefty fine. But we owe it to our students to keep our eye on the ball. To remember that their safety is the primary agenda when we are writing and enforcing our policies.  What I hoped to provide were simply two suggestions. They aren’t a magic wand. I don’t have one, nor does anyone else. It’s on us to make sure our students can thrive personally and academically, in an atmosphere free of discrimination. Of course, we have to be cognizant of compliance with federal guidelines, but in the forefront of our minds must be the more important question: are our students safe? And the answer must be: yes.


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