The term “Title IX” appears quite often on Stevens campus, but many students are unaware of the gravitas that it holds. It began as a way to protect students from gender discrimination, and has been associated mostly with athletics. However, Title IX policy has evolved over time and now offers protection to students in situations of sexual assault or violence.
Then what is Title IX? The term is derived from a federal law that requires “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” (20 U.S.C § 1681(a)). But isn’t Stevens a private institution? According to Assistant Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Kristie Damell, “Any educational institution that receives federal funding must comply with Title IX and its policies.”
Although the actual Title IX policy is brief, the U.S Department of Education and the Supreme Court have molded the statute to include much more than gender-based discrimination. Stevens Institute of Technology has always had an anti-discrimination policy, but the introduction of the government’s Title IX guidance document in 2011—also known as the “Dear Colleague Letter”—mandated that schools address sexual violence. “Once the Dear Colleague Letter came out, there were a number of terms we had to define. Our current policy came to be in the fall of 2013,” said Damell. “However, new regulations have come out, and we have to tweak our policy according to those changes.”
KnowyourIX.org is an informational website that Dean Damell has listed as a resource on the Title IX page of the Stevens website. It goes into depth regarding the history, the legislature, and the importance that Title IX policy serves on campuses across the United States. On the website, it reads, “Title IX does not apply to female students only.” The policy extends to all students, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, or gender expression. In addition, the website states that “female, male, and gender non-conforming students, faculty and staff are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence.”
Another component of Title IX pertains to the Clery Act. This particular piece of legislature has an unfortunate origin: the law was named after Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her college dorm room in the late 1980s. Her parents, determined to shed light on their daughter’s death, pushed for the passing of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act. “The Clery Act orders that all campuses publish their crime statistics,” said Damell. “The Annual Security Report is available online, but is published so that it is always one year behind and reports statistics from the prior year.” The 2013 and 2014 Stevens Annual Security Reports list the crime statistics for 2012 and 2013, respectively. When juxtaposing the two documents, certain offenses, such as rape, fondling, incest, and statutory rape, are included in the 2013 report, but not in the prior year’s report. The changes are accredited to the new regulations mandated by the U.S Department of Education.
The 2014 Annual Security Report shows that under the new categories, only one incident of fondling and one incident of a forcible sex offense in the 2013 academic year. The numbers may be low, but that doesn’t mean sexual assault and violence is not happening. According to Dean Damell, “No reports don’t always equal zero occurrences. When I see people reporting, it makes me happy to know that students are utilizing their resources.”
For gender or sex-based discrimination victims and witnesses, there are many resources available. “Students can always contact Campus Police,” said Damell. “However, if students do not want to file a report with the police, they can always go through the Title IX office. The student always has the choice.” When incidences are reported, the information remains within a very small group of individuals. The Title IX office includes Assistant Dean Damell and Vice President for Human Resources and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Mark Samolewicz, as well as several Title IX Investigators that are utilized when conducting investigations.
Lower Campus Area Coordinator Steven Couras also serves as a Title IX Investigator, conducting prompt and thorough investigations of sexual misconduct, working with Dean Damell, and gathering relevant documentation for Title IX related complaints. When asked about preventative measures, Couras stated, “There are really great tools students can use to stay safe like the Companion app, which connects you with friends who can virtually walk home with you so you are not alone” said Couras. “It’s important to educate yourself and understand [Stevens’] policies and to know the resources available to you.”
Stevens is a university that fosters safe-campus practices, and student leaders have been eager to help perpetuate Title IX Policies. Women’s Programs and Stevens Shattering the Silence are two organizations that raise awareness of both gender and sex-based discrimination, while Dean Damell and Steven Couras have taken the initiative to provide bystander training to many students on campus, including Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, and Fraternity and Sorority members, as well as all athletic teams beginning this academic year. “We hope that all our initiatives trickle down to help spread the word on prevention and awareness” said Damell.
The most recent initiative that Stevens has taken to highlight its commitment to equality of opportunity and its intolerance of discrimination is the “It’s On Us” video. Students of all different backgrounds were invited to help show that Stevens is a campus that does not accept sexual violence or assault. Athletes, sorority women, fraternity men, and many other student leaders volunteered during the summer to contribute to the brief, yet engaging video. The students involved speak of the responsibilities they each have in the effort to raise awareness and prevent sexual violence in all of its forms.
Stevens Institute of Technology is a university that strives to promote a fair educational environment for all of its students. It is policies such as Title IX that help protect students of all capacities and promote a community of trust on and off campus grounds. For more information on Stevens’ policy and programs, please visit the website at www.stevens.edu/titleix.