Long lectures about residential life, academic programs and ways to be a successful student are an inevitable part of the freshman orientation experience. Being forced to think about college graduation before you’ve even had your first day of classes can be overwhelming at times, and many students will shut down and stop paying attention to these lectures. However, there is one that is bound to come up that you should pay attention to: Title IX.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities and requires all schools that receive federal funding to have a Title IX coordinator. At the very least, most schools will introduce this person to the students along with various handouts, and some schools choose to go beyond this with a workshop or a discussion surrounding the topic.
At my school’s orientation, students were shown a video following the story of a girl who was sexually assaulted and the several different possible outcomes of the situation based on the actions or inactions of multiple bystanders. After watching the video, we were put into small groups to discuss the nature of consent and our own experiences in bystander situations. At first, the discussion was understandably awkward and slow, because we were strangers talking about such a serious and personal topic. However, as we got further into the conversation, the prompts got more intricate and our responses more honest. By the end of it, I was shocked at how powerful the discussion was.
With all of the controversy over how to approach this topic with students, which has become increasingly muddled due to things like the Dear Colleague Letter and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos weakening Title IX, I’ve started to realize that we do not universally effectively teach bystander intervention. We do not just need changes in legislation, we need more programs and workshops that force students to have these uncomfortable conversations. A student is more likely to speak up or act in a situation when they’ve imagined it before and discussed all the different ways to approach it.
Most schools do have programs and training for students, but it’s not made mandatory or is only mandatory for student leaders such as RAs. While it’s important to introduce the law to students and to resist the changes to Title IX under the Trump administration, it’s just as important to insist on creating a culture of awareness on your college campus. Feeling safe on your college campus should be a fundamental right, regardless of the current political climate.
Lead Image Credit: Joey Gannon via Flickr Creative Commons