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Westminster College Holds Annual Title IX Symposium

Oct 08, 2015 01:51PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By McCall Mash

Westminster College hosted its second annual Title IX Symposium – Not Alone – on Sept. 17 - 18. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits any act of discrimination based off of sex. The symposium focused on rape, sexual assault and dating violence discrimination on college campuses.

The symposium is designed for students, college faculty and staff members and the community. Participants came from Westminster College as well as from other schools in the state. The Symposium is designed to appeal to two different audiences: college staff and faculty and students.

A total of six colleges, including Westminster College participated, and nine organizations helped to sponsor the event. Staff and faculty members learned how to conduct a good investigation and how to ask the right questions without reinforcing trauma. Students learned about how they are protected by their school and the law, what to expect after reporting an incident and what they can demand from their school. 

“We try to have a pronounced and vocal outline of rights,” Melissa Flores, the director of the symposium, said. “We don’t want anyone to be confused.”

The symposium consisted of three main features. The first feature was two keynote speakers: Michael Munson who spoke on the topic of “Complex Communities, Simple Solutions: Making a Difference for Transgender Sexual Violence Survivors” and Liz Seccuro who spoke on “What Everyone Needs to Know: How the Internet & ‘Bro’ Culture Have Impacted Campus Violence & Sexual Assault.” 

The second feature was multiple breakout sessions on a variety of topics that addressed Title IX issues. Symposium attendees had as many as four options per breakout session. The last feature of the symposium was the screening of the 'Hunting Ground' on Friday night; a documentary that investigated how many college students “who have been raped on campus face retaliation and harassment as they fight for justice.” The film was open for all members of the community to attend, not just those who were participating in the symposium.

“We take [Title IX] very seriously. We want to make sure that everyone stays safe. The Symposium is one way that we are trying to shed light on this issue and make sure everyone knows their rights,” Jason Schwartz-Johnson, the Title IX coordinator at Westminster College, said.

The idea of a symposium was created months after the Clery Act was amended on Oct. 20, 2014. The amendment gave more rights to the survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in collegiate situations.

In the past two years since the Clery Act was amended, colleges across the country have seen major changes in how Title IX has been addressed. Along with the symposium, Westminster College requires all students to undergo a Title IX comprehension course and professors are expected to actively talk to students about the law which is outlined in very course syllabus. 

“It’s happening all over the country; all campuses under law are required to do this,” Schwartz-Johnson said.

The symposium, along with the amendments to the Clery Act, are trying to change how Title IX violations are dealt with on college campuses and to hopefully bring down the occurrences of Title IX violations.  

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