Five key areas of investment in Title IX

 

Baylor University, like many other universities, has been working diligently to establish a Title IX office and support services that provide timely and sensitive responses to campus sexual assault survivors who report through Title IX, as well as proactive strategies to prevent sexual violence from occurring.

At Baylor, our goal is for students to feel safe and be safe in our university community — it’s critical to our mission of creating a transformative educational environment in which all students can learn, grow and develop to their fullest potential. When incidents of sexual violence occur, we must have people and processes in place to address the incidents and provide support and healing for those impacted.

At institutions of higher education across the state and nation, it is imperative that faculty, staff and students understand the legal, social and personal implications of any form of violence — especially sexual assault — so that we can be vigilant in our efforts to prevent its occurrence within our communities. To that end, at Baylor University, we continue to consult with expert advisors, attend educational programs, provide on-campus training sessions and have completed or made significant progress toward the implementation of 105 recommendations for improvement that resulted from the university’s self-mandated investigation of its Title IX-related practices between 2011 and 2015.

Through this process, we have identified practices to address interpersonal violence on university campuses that point to the need for five areas of significant investment in time and resources.

First, an institution’s leadership must be effectively and thoroughly engaged in understanding and supporting Title IX. At Baylor, our executive leadership has identified sexual violence prevention and response as a top priority. A chief compliance officer who reports directly to the president has been named. The university president meets monthly with the director of athletics, senior associate athletics director for compliance and university chief compliance officer to monitor compliance in all areas of the university. We are directing additional resources toward prevention and awareness training for our students, faculty and staff, and are putting measures of accountability into place to assure training is being completed. We have evaluated the need for expanding support services for sexual assault survivors and have invested in personnel, resources, facilities and other needs to improve our response to sexual violence and campus safety.

Second, an institution must have a consistent, uniform and equitable policy to address sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. At Baylor, we have consulted with experts to develop a comprehensive policy that streamlines efficiencies in investigation and adjudication and provides a clear and expedient process to contest investigative findings. Baylor has also placed a priority on defining terms within the policy so that students, faculty and staff understand more fully what is considered intimate partner violence; has increased awareness of the policy and its application; and has worked to ensure students, faculty and staff know how to make reports. Additionally, an amnesty provision has been incorporated into the Title IX policy to break down potential barriers to reporting, and an online, confidential reporting tool has been launched.

Third, a university also must provide robust support services for all students. These are services that assist all those affected by sexual violence — complainants, respondents, witnesses and others — as well as interim measures that ensure students who have reported sexual violence will be able to attend classes without further detrimental effects. This also includes measures to protect the broader community as needed, provide counseling services (with a focus on access to the types of counseling required to treat trauma-related diagnoses)and increase the number of counseling staff to assure that students can be seen on a timely basis.

At Baylor, we have more than doubled both our counseling center’s physical space and clinical staff, an investment of close to $1 million in additional annual budget resources, which has resulted in expanded services to students, further specialized training for staff and enhanced mental healthcare options for our students. We also are establishing robust partnerships with organizations such as the Waco Advocacy Center to help extend services available to students who prefer to seek resources for support through an external avenue.

Fourth, centralizing oversight of reports and investigations in Title IX is vital to consistency and accountability. This includes the use of a multi-disciplinary team to coordinate information and personnel and establishing and following fair and impartial investigation processes.

Baylor has two collaborative teams led by our Title IX coordinator. The Title IX case management team works with the coordinator to manage investigations, remedies (including interim measures) and overall monitoring of campus climate. The Title IX support team works with the coordinator to help advance the Title IX office’s development at Baylor University through advisement and task force-based efforts to ensure continued student care with a compliant and unified Title IX program.

Baylor has integrated technology that centrally houses information about all reports of prohibited conduct covered by the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Interpersonal Violence policy. Further, Baylor has increased the staff of the Title IX office to provide greater specialization and support for the needs of students, faculty and staff. Currently, Baylor's Title IX office is staffed with a full-time coordinator; a deputy coordinator; three full-time investigators, who are trained in investigating Title IX-related cases in a neutral, yet trauma-informed manner; a full-time administrative case manager, who offers assistance and resources to parties participating in a Title IX process; a full-time training and prevention specialist, while currently searching for a second; a full-time administrative manager; and an administrative assistant. In addition, Baylor has engaged six external professionals with experience in legal proceedings who are trained on Baylor’s policies and procedures and an outside attorney to work with the Title IX office.

Fifth, a university must provide extensive training for all students and employees. Training should focus on awareness and education as well as a range of prevention strategies aimed at stopping interpersonal violence before it occurs. These strategies should promote positive, healthy behaviors that encourage respectful relationships and bystander intervention. They must work to change social norms and expectations of the community to encourage healthy relationships, engage all students in supporting safety, increase awareness of what they can do and ensure students know the resources they can draw from to prevent violence and promote safety.

At Baylor, we provide sexual assault prevention training to all incoming students and mandate Title IX training to all faculty and staff. Targeted training has been implemented for specific audiences, such as fraternities and sororities, varsity athletes and club sports teams, all new staff, faculty and graduate student instructors, among others. In Fall 2016, in addition to mandatory training for incoming students, returning students were encouraged to complete an online training course.

It is our belief that engaged and committed leadership, a consistent and uniform policy, implementation and awareness, robust support services, central oversight of reports and investigations under Title IX and extensive training for all students and employees are critical in addressing and ultimately preventing acts of interpersonal violence. Through our comprehensive efforts, Baylor University has provided a clear message that sexual violence has no place within our community. Our mission calls us to provide a caring community in which young men and women can learn, grow and develop into leaders and servants that positively impact the world around them.

Kevin Jackson, Baylor University

Kevin Jackson is Baylor University's Vice President for Student Life.

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