Sexual assault on college campuses has been making headlines across the country, with dozens of institutions under fire for their handling of rape allegations. We asked CSUMB Deputy Title IX Coordinator Anna Bartkowski to shed some light on this complex topic.
Q: Why is sexual assault on campus suddenly front-page news?
A: Decades of prevention efforts and awareness campaigns have resulted in decreased rates of sexual assault in most areas of the country except one – campuses of higher education. We haven’t moved the dial on rates of sexual violence on campuses in four decades. Approximately 20 percent of female students and 6 percent of male students experience some form of sexual assault during their college years; most don’t report the incident – either to police or to the university.
In 2011, the federal government became more involved. Federal and state legislatures, government agencies, courts, media and student groups have been criticizing the way in which colleges have handled reported cases of sexual assault. They are calling for greater enforcement, accountability and transparency from universities.
Universities have long used the campus judicial process and disciplinary procedures against students who violate the Code of Conduct’s rule against sexual misconduct. However, this approach fails to recognize that sexual assault and harassment on campus often stem from a culture of gender violence. Sexual assault is, at its heart, a civil rights issue properly governed by Title IX.
Q: What is Title IX?
A: Title IX is federal law that makes sexual discrimination in educational settings unlawful. For more than 40 years, Title IX has been used to ensure gender equity in athletics. The resulting social, psychological and physical benefits have been well-documented and profound.
When we talk about Title IX today, however, we need to expand the conversation to include any acts of discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of sex. Rape and sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking are all forms of sexual harassment that create a hostile environment and trigger a duty for the university to respond.
Q: What is CSUMB doing to prevent and address sexual assault?
A: Following the lead of the CSU system, CSUMB has adopted strong policies against sex discrimination with grievance procedures allowing timely and equitable resolution of complaints, including steps to end any discriminatory activity, eliminate hostile environments, remedy the effects of such behavior, and prevent it from reoccurring.
CSUMB has established an administrative Title IX Advisory Board and a campus-wide task force to host events, inform and educate the campus community, encourage discussion and raise awareness about the issues of sexual assault and harassment. In the spring, in addition to bystander intervention training for students, we will be hosting CSUMB Rising – an event to empower people to end relationship violence.