This spring marks the implementation date for several important new federal mandates to assist colleges and universities in sexual violence prevention, reporting and response under the Title IX Act of 1972. Baylor is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our students, as well as all members of the University community.
To this end, the University takes seriously allegations of sexual violence and seeks to ensure all students, faculty and staff are informed of the resources available to them. Early last fall, all new students were asked to attend a presentation on sexual violence awareness and prevention. Additionally, students were asked to take online training that focused on making healthy choices regarding alcohol and taking effective actions should one become aware of a situation that might lead to an act of sexual violence.
“College is a place where we know students are dealing with a degree of freedom they’ve never had before,” Associate Vice President for Student Life Dr. Martha Lou Scott said. “How can we ensure that students are safe, how can we ensure students make good decisions, and how can we make sure students look out for other students? We’re addressing these questions in a number of ways.”
Scott, a member of Baylor’s Title IX Sexual Misconduct Task Force, said national reports show alcohol is involved in 90 percent of sexual violence cases.
“That alcohol consumption goes hand-in-hand with any number of undesirable situations in not a surprise,” Scott said. “Naturally, part of helping keep students from these situations is to educate them about alcohol.”
Baylor’s Division of Student Life launched two new online survey tools to help students understand the role of alcohol on their decisions. AlcoholEDU was launched in the fall semester, and “Every Choice” launched in January. “Every Choice” is designed to reinforce the messages about alcohol consumption dangers students received through AlcoholEDU. According to Scott, “Every Choice” answers questions such as, “When you see someone being isolated at an off-campus event in some way, particularly someone who might be drinking, how do you intervene or get someone else to intervene?”
Many people hear Title IX and think women’s sports, but the amendment goes far beyond athletics, dealing with equal access to education for all. If a student is a victim of some sort of sexual violence, his or her ability to attend class and focus on studies clearly is jeopardized. Similarly, faculty or staff who have been victimized do not have a safe environment in which to do their jobs.
In November, Patty Crawford began ger role as Title IX Coordinator. The position is designed to help with questions and reporting of any instances of sexual violence. Crawford and others in her position at educational institutions across America are looking for ways to lower the instances of sexual violence. She believes it starts by changing
“We’re learning a lot about cultural practices and universities that maybe seem like they’re covering things up to protect their brand or their image,” Crawford said. “We have to create a structure where universities show strong resources available for victims and prevention.”
Baylor has four areas of focus with the Title IX Coordinator: awareness, education, prevention and trust-building. The goal is a proactive, positive, transparent, simple and easily understood message that reinforces the need for students and employees to implement the reporting policies and procedures. Equally, there must be a strong trust that the Title IX office will handle each incident with the utmost care and compliance.
“If an employee finds out something has happened to someone else, they are federally mandated to report it to the Title IX coordinator,” Crawford said.
After enduring an act of sexual misconduct, a student may want to confide in a professor or staff member with whom he or she has developed
a close bond. Often, the student approaches the discussion desirous of confidentiality. However, given Title IX laws, such cannot be granted.
“In a very simple way, you must explain the difference between privacy and confidentiality,” Crawford said. “(Employees) can say, ‘I’m going to tell one person: Patty Crawford.’”
From that point, Crawford will take the appropriate steps. However, that does not mean the decision of what to do next is out of the survivor’s hands.
“The survivor is not obligated to do anything,” Crawford said. “They already feel they’ve had a right taken away, a really valuable, special right. My job is not to tell them what to do, because that’s like taking away another right. My job is to empower them to choose whatever resource they want.”
Crawford said her position should be viewed as the conduit between the survivor and various campus entities willing to be of assistance. It also is helpful for a singular person to know of any reported incidents of sexual misconduct for an awareness of trends.
“When we take it all and put it in one place, it really increases privacy for our students,” she said. “It ensures confidence in our system and trust. It streamlines the process so they know exactly where to go, they know what the tools and resources are. They get help immediately so they’re not telling the story 15 times.”
Baylor’s Human Resources Division has partnered with Crawford to address Title IX and sexual misconduct issues with faculty and staff, including Title IX training. The Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act are person’s laws, meaning they pertain to anyone on a college campus. That includes colleague-to-colleague interaction, especially in cases of alleged sexual harassment.
“Reporting doesn’t necessarily mean someone is going to be terminated,” Associate Vice President for Human Resources Cheryl Gochis said. “We will look into it and determine how it should be handled. But to have an environment where we’re able to move forward, we have to know that people are sharing those most important pieces with the right people.”
Baylor’s Title IX Sexual Misconduct Task Force members are working closely together to ensure Baylor understands and is compliant with federal mandates. The Task Force includes Crawford (coordinator), Gochis, Scott and Associate Dean for Student Conduct Administration Bethany McCraw.
Legislative Background for Title IX Mandates:
Cleary Act (Nov. 8, 1990)
• Formally the Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act
• Named for Jeanne Cleary, a 19-year-old freshman at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1996
• Compliance monitored by U.S. Department of Education
• Requires that any physical crime that happens on a college campus must be made known to the public
Violence Against Women Act of 1994
• Established Office of Violence Against Women within U.S. Department of Justice
• Covers everything from physical assault to stalking and sexual harassment