Article By: Elaine Millas
This fall, fear levels are rising among many on Goucher’s campus concerning changes announced by the federal administration. The first “Town Hall,” sponsored by the Goucher Student Government and the Office of Student Engagement, had panel speakers from various faculty and staff members providing information and answering questioning about different political issues, one of them being Title IX rollbacks.
Lucia Perfetti-Clark and Rina Rhyne are experts on how Title IX regulations affect Goucher students. Perfetti-Clark and Rhyne run the Title IX office at Goucher and have six student peer educators whose aim is to spread awareness and integrate the office into the student community. Perfetti-Clark and Rhyne believe that one of the biggest reasons people are so fearful of the rollbacks surrounding Title IX is that there is a lot of uncertainty around them.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is highlighting the inequalities on the opposite side that former Vice President Joe Biden did. While Biden fought for the rights of the victim, DeVos is advocating for those falsely accused, a number quite low in comparison with the total. There is a reason: some schools treated indicted students unfairly, but this is not the norm. The temporary guidelines she has sent out suggest that schools consider switching from the Obama era preponderance of evidence (51% guilty means guilty) to a clear and convincing standard (75%). It is worth noting that civil courts use a preponderance of the evidence standard, and this is a discussion about school disciplinary hearings.
However: Goucher College is a private school. We do not have to adhere to these set of rules. In reality, the guidelines are merely guidelines: no one is being forced to adhere to them. Schools can choose, and many of the Obama era directives are now law under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act.
When asked about how the new directives will affect Goucher, Rhyne said that the rollback “hurts [victims]… the last administration, especially Joe Biden, made it feel like this issue is of importance and needs to be addressed, and this administration, what’s happening now- it’s saying the opposite of that. I do think that hurts because there’s so much stigma around all of this. It’s hard enough to speak up, even when the last administration said it was okay to speak up, and now this is all happening, it does not help.”
There is an added concern that these new regulations, or lack thereof, will create an environment with more leniency around rape culture in the Goucher community. Title IX’s most significant form of outreach is through education. Along with the peer educators, Perfetti-Clark and Rhyne will work tirelessly to make sure the campus is as safe and educated as possible, no matter what federal regulations are put in place.
The goal of Title IX, under the law, is for students to pursue an education in a non-hostile environment equitably. Their agenda, however, is to promote consent on campus, prevention of sexual assault, diminish relationship violence and encourage active bystanders.
Any student should feel comfortable reporting if they have been the victim of sexual assault or relationship abuse. Their office in the Alumni House is for resources or more information. Goucher’s Title IX system is fair but victim-centered: no one is forced to do anything that they do not feel comfortable doing. Both reporter and perpetrator receive resources and an advisor. Reporters can pursue either formal or informal solutions. Formal solutions include a trial by a jury of faculty and staff, while informal can range from banning the perpetrator from individual houses to making sure the reporter registers first. In an informal solution, the perpetrator must agree to the terms of the settlement.
In the 2016 calendar year, the Title IX office received sixty reports. One of these was resolved formally, and fifty-nine were resolved informally.
Online is the Annual Security Report, which schools are legally mandated to publish under the Clergy Act (this has not changed). It was sent out in an email by David Heffer on September 27, and the statistics have gone up: this does not necessarily mean that crimes have gone up, but that more people are reporting to the Title IX office that they have been assaulted, which the office views as a positive thing. The Title IX office knows that Goucher has the same one in four statistics as every other school.
However, there is plenty done to prevent sexual assault. First-year students have multiple lessons during orientation, and that training is renewed at specific intervals, and are supplemented by a variety of campus events. Organizations such as Turn Around, a rape crisis center in Towson, are setting up mobile offices at Goucher. Faculty and staff have been trained and can be great resources to reach out to. According to peer educator Sarojini Schutt ’18, they may be the greatest strength on campus because of they are so genuine. In today’s political economy, while the administration has a myriad of other issues to juggle, Schutt suggests going to faculty and staff, who can help individuals whom they have developed relationships with. Schutt, Perfetti-Clark, and Rhyne, as well as the other peer educators, are ready to provide the community with resources, ready to listen, ready to fight, ready to try to end rape culture and do what they can to help the Goucher community.
Photograph Captured by: Elaine Millas