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New Title IX guide raises questions over reporting sexual assaults

Falcon News Service

October 18, 2017

Safety is an essential aspect of the college experience. Many measures have been put into place in the University of Wisconsin System to ensure that students have a variety of resources at their disposal to deal with situations when they arrive.

However, there’s been a recent lack of knowledge about the potential new Title IX rules for reporting sexual assault on college campuses. Title IX is an education amendment and federal law passed in 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Title IX comes up many times in college athletics, but it goes much deeper than that. It prohibits sex discrimination in academics, activities, admissions, employment and housing. It also prohibits sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, according to the UWRF Title IX Resource Guide.

The Education Department announced on Sept. 22 that the Obama-Era guidelines for investigating and handling sexual assault cases would be rescinded and replaced by a new interim guide. Betsy Devos, the Education Secretary in the Trump administration, has said this new guidance allows for more due process and raises the standard of proof.

Gregg Heinselman, the Assistant Chancellor for Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator, said the initial ruling shouldn’t have a great impact on the University.

“I don’t see it affecting the University,” Heinselman said. “There will be a waiting and comment period and it won’t change at an institution level … it will be operation as normal, because the interim guide doesn’t have the force of the law.”

The University of Wisconsin System is uncommon in the fact that its student code is legally structured. By definition it is the law, and the only other state that shares this claim is Washington.

Heinselman predicts it will take a while to change state law, once the interim guidance ends and decisions are made on how to amend the process set forth in 2011 and 2014.

“The past guidelines align nicely and are at a good place,” Heinselman said. “I’m curious to see how it changes the landscape and how we operationalize those changes.”

Besides the rules for reporting sexual assault, creating awareness for the cause and administering training are the most essential steps in keeping the campus safe. Required training for UWRF students like “Think About It” and successful programs from Student Government Association like “It’s On Us” have helped push the issue to the forefront.

“I think we’re building a reporting culture on campus,” Heinselman said. “If you see something, say something. I think faculty and staff are understanding that.”

However, Heinselman notes that there are difficulties in training the campus. With a large turnover rate in new students every year, it can be complicated to make sure safety concerns are clear and the students don’t become lulled into a false sense of security.

The Week of Action has steadily been gaining attention on the UWRF campus. The campaign raises awareness for sexual assault and provides resources and guidance on the topic, especially to new students.

Temi Abiodun is a junior and the Student Affairs Director for Student Government Association. She stressed the importance of understanding the signs of sexual assault.

“We see it all the time and never really what it’s about,” Abiodun said. “Until you’re the victim or know somebody is when people start knowing.”

Abiodun also said it is essential for people to learn more about how to prevent it from happening and how to be educated about it.

“We have a lot of resources and events that can help talk about it,” she said. “We’re showing support of what campus has and it does make people feel safer.”

Student Health and Counseling, Turning Point (a program for victims of domestic and sexual violence) and professionals in counseling are all part of the network of people who are willing to help for those who have suffered sexual assault of sexual violence.

The Week of Action begins on Monday, Oct. 23 and runs through Thursday, Oct. 26.


Zach Dwyer on 24 Oct 2017: Thank you Rosemary!

Rosemary Pechous on 23 Oct 2017: Hey, I wanted to thank the author of this article. This topic is very important and more students should know the happenings around Title IX and UWRF's commitment toward a safe campus.