St. Joe’s responds to the rollback of Title IX policies
Despite new federal guidelines regarding sexual assault on campus, officials at Saint Joseph’s University do not plan to make any changes to the university’s policy, according to Mary-Elaine Perry, Ed.D., the university’s Title IX Coordinator.
St. Joe’s officials involved in enforcing Title IX met to review the federal guidelines on Oct. 2 , but no changes were planned at this time.
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, issued new guidelines for implementation of Title IX and rescinded the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sept. 22.
Title IX addresses any gender-based discrimination that leads to a hostile environment and denies a person from educational opportunities. The law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The Dear Colleague Letter, written by former Vice President Joe Biden, explains how schools should handle sexual violence under Title IX. It restates Title IX, saying that all schools receiving federal funds must quickly and efficiently take action to respond to acts of assault. St. Joe’s, as a school which receives federal funds, participates in this program.
During a speech Devos gave at George Mason University on Sept. 7, she called the previous Title IX guidelines a “failed system.” DeVos said she hoped the new guidelines would give equal due process to both parties involved in sexual assault cases, which she believes the Obama administration failed to do.
Perry believes that current practices at St. Joe’s do not violate the new guidelines.
“We will wait for the final guidance, informed by public comment, to determine any changes to our policies,” she said in an email correspondence.
Maureen Shields, associate athletic director and deputy Title IX coordinator, said that St. Joe’s already has “a sound system.”
Perry explained the university’s top priority is to protect all students and make all cases equitable.
“Our goal is to help all of you to be successful, so we’re going to work with both of you, same rights, same opportunities,” she said.
The Student Outreach and Support Center directs victims of sexual violence to resources on and off campus.
“[We make] sure they are aware of what those supports are,” said Marci Berney, director and case manager of the Student Outreach and Support Center. “The confidential supports would include the counseling center or REPP, but also the supports that are off campus.”
REPP, the Rape Education Prevention Program, is a confidential on-campus source for victims of sexual assault.
Raquel Bergen, Ph.D., professor of sociology and director of REPP, said REPP’s two goals are education awareness and crisis intervention. She believes having conversations in the classroom about violence and raising awareness about our culture is a long-term solution to ending sexual assault.
If an assault occurs, REPP allows the victim to anonymously speak to a trained student or faculty member to provide help and support to the victim.
“If somebody has a question, if an assault has taken place, if it happened a long time ago and they just want to talk it through, and it’s the middle of the night, they can call the helpline,” Bergen said.