Temple Student Government is hosting a Sexual Assault Prevention Week. But if students are sexually assaulted, where do they go, and what protections do they have?
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a piece of legislation that aims to prevent gender discrimination in education. Passed in 1972 to ensure female university faculty were given the same opportunities and compensation as their male coworkers, it set the stage for gender equality in all aspects of education.
Under Title IX, opportunities for scholarships, education and athletics must be equitable for male and female students.
Title IX protects the rights of the LGBTQ community when it comes to participating in sports, accessing housing opportunities and utilizing public restrooms. It also protects the rights of students who have children or who are pregnant and addresses instances of sexual assault, including dating violence and stalking.
Who oversees Title IX at Temple?
Andrea Seiss became Temple’s Title IX coordinator in June 2016, the first time the university made the job a stand-alone position. Before, Title IX coordination responsibilities were allotted to one of two people working in the Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance at Temple. The creation of the Title IX coordinator position was part of Temple’s efforts to better address sexual violence on campus. Seiss works in Student Center room 314.
“We always had a Title IX coordinator, but the Title IX coordinator shared their duties with other areas of equal opportunity compliance,” said Valerie Harrison, senior adviser to the president for compliance. “So what we did is we strengthened our focus on sexual assault by pulling that position out and assigning a dedicated Title IX Coordinator to it.”
Seiss said this shift has increased focus on Title IX issues, as equal opportunity compliance encompasses a large scope of other issues, like religious, racial and age discrimination.
What is the job of the Title IX coordinator?
Seiss said the bulk of her job is addressing cases of sexual misconduct, and another large piece is educating people about Title IX legislation and its resources.
When Seiss receives a sexual misconduct complaint, she works with students to help them determine if they want to report their assault to police. She then helps students seek support services, including counseling or academic accommodations, which could allow for leaves of absence or class changes in order to be separated from their abusers. When a formal resolution to a case has been reached, Seiss oversees the implementation of the resolution and will often check in with students throughout their time at Temple to make sure they graduate.
“The bulk of my job is working one-on-one with people who have concerns,” Seiss said. “By having the stand-alone position, it’s given me the time to be able to go out and participate in education and collaboration and partner up on education initiatives.”
How does the university handle cases of sexual misconduct?
In Spring 2016, The Temple News found sexual assault survivors were experiencing exceptionally long wait times in the handling of their cases.
Seiss said that although nothing has changed about the process of handling students’ sexual assault cases, her collaboration with investigators in the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and Temple’s intentional effort to follow through with cases has helped alleviate wait times. Seiss and the investigators meet weekly to go over active cases and strategize on next steps.
Recently, Temple also created a partnership with Women Organized Against Rape, which opened a 24/7 satellite office on campus in Spring 2017.
How does the Title IX office make itself a resource to students?
As a result of receiving an It’s on Us grant, Seiss said Temple completed focus groups to gauge student reactions to the university’s efforts to address sexual violence. The $25,853 state grant is meant to aid Temple in its goals for combatting sexual violence. Thirty-five other post-secondary institutions also received grants up to $30,000.
The Title IX office also collaborated with WOAR to revamp educational and marketing materials.
“I’m actually really excited about what was created with the marketing campaign,” Seiss said. “It’s not only highlighting where you can go to report or to talk confidentially, but it also highlights where you can go just to get resources if you have safety issues and need safety help.”
Temple’s mandatory, online sexual assault education programs have been updated to provide international students and graduate students with more relevant information. Seiss said the previous online training programs didn’t resonate with international students who come from cultures in which sexual violence issues are not openly discussed. The training also lacked Title IX information post-graduate students may be more concerned about, like gender inequality within the sciences.
“I feel like we are making a really intentional effort to not just put general training out there and say, ‘OK this is good for everyone,’” she said. “We’re trying to find what really speaks to and works with people.”
Seiss said one of the main problems of her job is the volume of Title IX cases with which she has to deal. She tracks this data to help the university determine if they need to increase the size of their response team. She added it’s also difficult to uphold Temple’s institutional values, while simultaneously keeping up with changing legislation, like the announcement Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made last Thursday that she’ll be rolling back elements of Title IX.
Seiss said she hopes DeVos will diligently listen to a variety of people and organizations across the country throughout her review of Title IX and take differing points of view into account.
“Right now we are moving along with what we’re told to move along with, but we need to be prepared for what we might be asked to do in the future,” Seiss added.