A student guide to Title IX

By Associate Editor

Title IX, a section of the nationwide Education Amendments of 1972, has made it not only illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex on college campuses but also introduced reporting and investigation requirements in cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving student victims or perpetrators.

Columbia rolled out the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures during the Fall 2014 Semester, according to Beverly Anderson, associate dean of Student Health and Support and Title IX coordinator.

Under this policy, a number of crimes are classified as sexual harassment or misconduct, including sexual violence or abuse as well as any sort of unwanted comments, gestures or behavior “of a sexual nature or based on  gender.”

Anderson said while students may not think an experience they had falls within these categories, they should still report it if it caused them discomfort.

“I would ask students to report anyway because that is the case sometimes—students will report something [and] it may not necessarily fall under the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, but it would be a violation of the Student Code of Conduct,” she said.

Students can report possible sexual assault to three types of college employees: a “responsible employee,” which includes all faculty and staff, “nonprofessional counselors” or “advocates and confidential resources.”

Responsible employees are mandated to report the incident to Anderson, which begins a formal investigation. Nonprofessional counselors and advocates, who can report incidents to Anderson without revealing the student’s personal information include Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life, as well as Oterio Villa, coordinator of Residence Life Training & Communication. Confidential resources, which include the Student Health, Counseling Services and counselors in the Office of Student Relations, cannot report incidents to Anderson without a victim’s permission.

To encourage student reporting, the college policy guidelines include an amnesty clause that protects students from discipline if they report an incident that happened while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Anderson said.

“Sometimes students do not want to come forward and report because alcohol or drugs were involved, [but] that is not our primary concern at that time,” she said.

According to Anderson, bystanders can report under the same guidelines or anonymously use the college’s new whistleblower service at (844) 406-8158 or www.Colum.EthicsPoint.com.

When students report a sex crime, they are directed to Columbia’s counseling services as well as community resources, Anderson said, such as Rape Victim Advocates and Center on Halsted. If a crime occurs off campus, the college still encourages students to report and directs the victim to the Chicago Police Department.

According to Columbia’s 2014–2015 crime report, the college had five reported rapes in 2014, up from the two assaults reported in 2013. Figures for 2015 will not be available until later this year, Anderson said.

Sexual assault awareness events for the Spring 2016 Semester including the Feb. 24 Consent Rocks Concert, a musical performance that emphasizes sexual education, and art exhibitions from the Peace Paper Project beginning March 8. The Project that uses papermaking as a form of therapy for victims of harassment or violence.

“We are doing our best to have a concerted effort of informing our students about the policy,” Anderson said. “I would rather the students have the information before an incident as opposed to afterwards.”