A recent report from Campus Safety showed a 42 percent decrease in reports of sexual offenses from 2016 to 2017.
While official numbers for 2018 have not been published yet, the lack of an official director of the Office of Title IX, which oversees gender discrimination and sexual assault, has created cause for concern. This year, four timely warning notifications regarding non-consensual sexual contact have been sent campus-wide.
Following the resignation of Rollins’ Title IX coordinator at the end of the 2017-18 school year, six staff members have been trained to be the first contact for Title IX-related reports, as reported by The Sandspur in September 2018. Furthermore, the search for a new coordinator has been underway since the start of this semester.
For now, Dean of Students Meghan Harte Weyant has taken on the role of Title IX coordinator.
Dr. Margaret McLaren, coordinator of the Sexuality, Women’s, and Gender Studies (SWAG) program at Rollins, offered some insight into the decrease in reports of sexual offenses from 2016 to 2017. She stated that Rollins has improved the enforcement of Title IX policies once incidents are reported.
However, she believed that it is necessary to have a more proactive environment on campus when it comes to preventing sexual assault.
McLaren believed that Rollins needs to institutionalize education and awareness efforts, so that the school’s methods, rather than the faculty, are the primary focus of Title IX. She believed that Title IX training at orientation should just be the starting point of more events throughout students’ schooling.
“I don’t think there is any place on campus when those issues are systematically addressed. In fact, I think there has been an institutional scale back on these issues and attention to these issues,” Mclaren said.
Seemingly, there has been less focus placed on sex- and gender-based issues this semester. McLaren said the faculty director position in the Lucy Cross Center was eliminated this year, and the Title IX coordinator position has been left open for months as Rollins goes through the hiring process.
McLaren said she is concerned about the conflicting external influences of America’s current political climate and the ever-growing #MeToo movement that have created a more complex environment for people experiencing sex- and gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination.
Additionally, each incoming class carries its own characteristics that have an affect on the offenses and reports. Ken Miller, assistant vice president of Public Safety at Rollins, explained that “while Title IX training might be conducted in a similar manner from one year to another, students are individuals with their own experiences, identities, and behaviors.”
“Ultimately, we would hope that with increased training and a more informed campus, it would be more difficult for perpetrators to commit these violations and easier for survivors to come forward, thereby seeing a decrease in reports,” Miller said.
Until this final goal is reached, faculty and students alike wait to see what the future reveals for the Office of Title IX.